Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Lebanon

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Lebanon, 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 21 January 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: 4,228,000
Capital: Beirut

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Murders: none reported
Attempted Murders: none reported
Threats: none reported
Injuries: none reported
Arrests: none reported
Imprisonments: none reported
Dismissals: none reported

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


The authorities have broad powers to control trade unions. Many migrants, particularly domestic and Palestinian workers, lack trade union rights and are poorly treated.


General protests were held by unions and civil society groups over economic policies and sectarianism. In January, 1,000 people protested over high food and fuel prices and continued economic hardships. Several large demonstrations took place throughout the spring calling for political reform and in particular an end to sectarian government.

In March, waterworks employees went on strike while protests were held by taxi drivers and public transport workers over oil price increases. In May, trade unions held a nationwide strike while tens of thousands of teachers also staged a one-day strike against the ongoing political vacuum causing the closure of nearly all schools. In June, Prime Minister Najib Miqati announced a new cabinet, ending a five-month political stalemate that increasingly threatened Lebanon's stability. However further strikes occurred until the end of the year including a widely observed national strike in October.

On 15 December 5,000 protesters demonstrated in Beirut as part of a teacher's strike. A draft agreement on an increase in wages and social security benefits was reached in late December amid renewed calls for a general strike.

Trade union rights in law

Trade union rights are not adequately secured, although a new draft amendment to the Labour Code would improve the situation somewhat. The law recognises the right of workers, except government employees, to set up and belong to trade unions. However, prior authorisation is needed from the Ministry of Labour in order to form a trade union. The Ministry also controls all trade union elections, including the date of the election, the procedure and the ratification of the results. Furthermore, unions are prohibited from engaging in any political activity, and the law permits the administrative dissolution of trade unions.

The thresholds for engaging in collective bargaining are high, and all collective agreements must be ratified by two-thirds of the union members at a general assembly. Although the right to strike is recognised, it is limited by the obligation to announce the number of participants in advance, as well as by the requirement that 5% of the union's members be given responsibility for maintaining order during the strike. The organisers of a strike must also sign a document whereby they assume full responsibility for all damages that occur during a demonstration.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Palestinians denied many rights: There are approximately 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, which accounts for 11% of the Lebanese population. Palestinians are not allowed to form trade unions, as there has to be a reciprocal arrangement with their home state. Previously Palestinian refugees had been severely restricted in the type of work they could obtain, but with the passing of a new law Palestinian refugees were guaranteed the same rights at work as other foreigners.

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 Lebanese General Workers Union (CGTL), causing friction within the union when it opposes government policy. Union elections in January saw disputes over alleged pro-Syrian bias.

Migrant Domestic workers abused and excluded:

Lebanon has an estimated 200,000 domestic workers, primarily from Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and the Philippines. The Philippines, Ethiopia, Nepal and Madagascar all ban their citizens from working in Lebanon due to extensive abuse. It is estimated that one domestic worker commits suicide in Lebanon every week on average. They remain essentially outside of crucial labour laws and subject to exploitation and frequent abuse by employers and agencies including non-payment of wages, forced confinement at the workplace, no time off, and verbal or physical abuse. Reports estimate that only 1% of migrant domestic workers are allowed to keep their passports. The sponsorship system ties the worker's residency to a specific employer, making it very hard for a domestic worker to change employers, even in cases of abuse. Once employment is terminated the worker loses residency, making it difficult to file complaints because workers fear detention owing to their illegal status.

The government issued new regulations (Standard Unified Contract) in 2009, requiring each employer to abide by a set of rules including paying workers their salary in full at the end of each month, providing weekly time off and setting a maximum number of working hours. However, the government has failed to take appropriate sanctions against employers who abuse migrant domestic workers, and in practice many employers continue to overwork, underpay and abuse their domestic workers. The Philippines have operated a ban on deploying domestic workers to Lebanon since 2006 but have recently held discussions with Lebanese authorities aimed at reversing the restrictions, provided the government takes steps to guarantee a greater degree of protection. Some 40,000 Filipinos are thought to work in Lebanon despite the ban. In January, however some 100 Filipino domestic workers who had been abused by their employers were repatriated.


No entry for this country for this year

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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