Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2017, 11:43 GMT

2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Sudan

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 20 November 2008
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Sudan, 20 November 2008, available at: [accessed 22 October 2017]
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: 38,600,000
Capital: Khartoum
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Trade union rights are non-existent in Sudan, where workers' organisations are closely controlled by the authorities. The slightest protest is often harshly repressed, particularly in the highly strategic oil sector.

Trade union rights in law

Single national centre, strikes banned: The 1992 Trade Union Act established a trade union monopoly controlled by the government and only the government-controlled Sudan Workers Trade Union Federation (SWTUF) can function legally. All other unions are banned.

Labour disputes are adjudicated by the labour courts, but the Minister of Labour then refers them to compulsory arbitration. The ILO has requested the government to amend the law to ensure that it is not compulsory. Strike action requires government approval, which is never given and workers can be dismissed for taking illegal strike action.

Collective bargaining is nearly non-existent as a government-appointed and controlled tripartite committee of representatives of the government, employers and the SWTUF sets salaries.

The current Labour Code, which came into effect in December 2000, continues to deny trade union freedoms and reinforces government control over trade unions.

Heavy government control: The government defines the scope of unions' activity, including their terms of office, elections, organisational structures and alliances – in clear contravention of international labour standards. Trade union funds are controlled by the Auditor General.

The Labour Code stipulates that one of the trade unions' objectives should be to cooperate with government bodies and community forces to promote national independence and security and the government's international relations. Failure to do so can obstruct union registration.

The General Registrar has extensive powers. The law states that: "The General Registrar may abrogate the procedures of the elections in a union if he is convinced of their shortcomings. In this case, he is empowered to order new elections."

Penalties for the infringement of the trade union law are not itemised, suggesting that a sentence of six months and/or a fine is applicable in all cases. The government has also reportedly prescribed severe penalties, including the death penalty, for violating labour decrees.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Background: Five years after the outbreak of war in Darfur, a province in the east of the country, the security and humanitarian situation has worsened further. The negotiations held in Libya in October ended in failure. At the end of the year, the deployment of a UN-African Union force seemed to be up against difficulties.

Dismal rights record: Sudan is a non-democratic, authoritarian country whose human and trade union rights record is a matter of serious concern. Human rights activists, including trade unionists and professionals, especially journalists, have been harassed, intimidated, arbitrarily arrested, detained and tortured. Security officers usually act with impunity. When investigating cases they are allowed to arrest, hold and torture suspects.

Trade unionists outside the pro-government trade unions live under constant fear and do not dare denounce inhuman conditions of work. It appears that independent trade unionists are not able to participate in international trade union meetings for fear of reprisal when they return home.

Accurate information about the numbers of trade unionists in prison is difficult to obtain and their whereabouts is unknown.

SWTUF colludes in government surveillance of oil workers: In the oil-producing regions, police and secret service agents closely monitor workers' activities in collusion with oil companies. These regions are designated "high security areas", where the free movement of people has been effectively curtailed. The SWTUF is used as part of governments strategy to control workers in order to ensure a regular flow of oil. Part of the revenue from this oil is ploughed back into financing the war efforts in the Darfur region. The SWTUF has consistently supported government denials that mass murder has taken place in Darfur, where workers do not even dare to approach the SWTUF for protection.

EPZs: There is one export processing zone in Port Sudan, which is exempt from the labour laws.

Demonstration in the oil industry brutally repressed: On 16 November, the authorities arrested 32 employees of the Petrodar oil company in Malut, Upper Nile State, during a demonstration to protest against their bad working conditions and four months' wage arrears. According to reports from strikers collected by an independent radio station, more than 400 workers took part in the demonstration. They blocked a road, hoping to intercept an executive's car and convey their demands to him. The police rapidly intervened, shooting and injuring two workers and then arresting 32 others. On 20 November the men were still in prison. Petrodar is a Chinese-Malaysian oil consortium.

Government interference at the University of Khartoum: The union of teachers at Khartoum University denounced government interference in a three-day strike that started on 19 May. A few days earlier the government had decided to "retire" 47 university lecturers, in what seemed an underhand way of weakening the union.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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