Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 13:07 GMT

2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Lebanon

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 11 June 2009
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Lebanon, 11 June 2009, available at: [accessed 19 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 4,100,000
Capital: Beirut
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Political tensions in the country make it difficult to carry on trade union activity, independently of political manipulation. The government called on the army after a general strike was called in May that coincided with the aggravation of internal political tensions. Many migrant workers, particularly domestic servants, and Palestinian workers lack trade union rights and are poorly treated.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association: The law recognises the right of workers, except government employees, to set up and belong to trade unions and federations. However, domestic workers, day workers and temporary workers in the public services, and some categories of agricultural workers are not covered by the country's labour code.

Broad powers of interference: The law confers broad powers on the Ministry of Labour, whose authorisation is required prior to the setting up of a trade union of any kind. Moreover, the Ministry controls all trade union elections, including the date of the election, the procedure to be followed and the ratification of the results.

The law also permits the administrative dissolution of trade unions and forbids them to engage in any political activity.

Right to collective bargaining: Collective bargaining is recognised in law. However, a minimum of 60% of workers must agree before a union can engage in collective bargaining. Collective agreements must be ratified by two thirds of union members at a general assembly. A draft amendment to the Labour Code reduces the threshold to 51% and gives government employees the right to bargain collectively. However, it had not become law by the end of the year.

Right to strike – restrictions: The right to strike is limited by the obligation to establish the number of participants in advance and the requirement that five per cent of the union's members be given responsibility for maintaining order during the strike. The organisers must sign a document whereby they assume full responsibility for all damages occurring during the demonstration.

Anti-union discrimination: The law does not adequately protect workers against anti-union discrimination, although fines for infringing labour legislation are relatively high. A draft amendment to the Labour Code prohibits any discrimination on the grounds of trade union membership, but this had still not become law by the end of the year.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: Political tensions have resulted in a faltering economy. Against this background it is difficult to carry on independent trade union activity, as there are accusations that strikes are designed to overthrow the government.

Government interference: The government has often interfered in trade union affairs, instigating or aggravating conflicts within the trade union movement. Senior politicians have managed to have their nominees placed on the governing body of the CGTL, causing friction within the union when it opposes government policy.

Demonstration by workers banned owing to political tensions: The unions focused their action during the year on their demand to upgrade wages, which had been stagnating since 1996. As they felt that the negotiations were getting nowhere the union centre called a general strike for 7 May, which attracted a lot of support. Owing to the very tense climate in early May, resulting from the political and institutional crisis in Lebanon, the general strike led to a major deployment of the police and armed forces and the demonstration called by the union centre was banned.

Migrant workers: As in other countries in the Middle East, there are many migrant workers, many of whom suffer from a lack of legal protection. Some of them are working in conditions close to slavery. There were reports that the Ethiopian and Philippine governments had banned their citizens from working in Lebanon because they were so badly treated.

There are an estimated 100,000 female domestic workers who are particularly badly treated, so the government has announced plans to draw up a standard contract for them. In August, Human Rights Watch issued a news release saying that domestic workers are dying at a rate of more than one per week. Most of these deaths were from suicides or botched escapes.

Palestinians denied many rights: There are approximately 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, who make up 11% of the population. They are not allowed to form trade unions, as there has to be a reciprocal arrangement with their home state. Palestinians in Lebanon are considered to be stateless people. They are also excluded from many professions reserved for Lebanese nationals, although there have been recent improvements, with more professions opening up to Palestinians.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

Search Refworld