Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2018, 12:53 GMT

2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Sudan

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 - Sudan, 11 June 2009, available at: [accessed 23 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: 39,400,000
Capital: Khartoum
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

There are no trade union rights in Sudan. The national centre the SWTUF is under the control of the government. A tripartite agreement on the abolition of censorship was negotiated by the national union of journalists but the repression of the free press intensified over the following months and a journalists' demonstration was repressed.

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 2008

Background: In July President Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur, the country's eastern province, where 300,000 people have perished over the last five years.

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. The press has reported on a few strikes organised by the official unions over pay demands that in general were tolerated by the authorities.

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 the government's 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.

Empty promises to journalists' union: Further to a "tripartite" meeting in April with the Sudanese Journalists' Union (SJU), newspaper editors and the government's security services, an agreement was reached in which the government promised to put an end to all forms of censorship and the prevailing practice of submitting press articles to censorship before publication. Over the following months however, the harassment of journalists proved fiercer than ever. Despite the country's very bad human rights record, many independent newspapers manage to keep going come what may, and try to maintain a form of pluralism. On 17 November journalists held a demonstration in Khartoum outside the parliament to protest at the upsurge in violations of press freedom, which was met with police repression. Over 70 journalists were arrested, then released a few hours later.

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

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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