Last Updated: Friday, 24 November 2017, 11:39 GMT

2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Yemen

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Yemen, 8 June 2011, available at: [accessed 24 November 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: 23,600,000
Capital: Sana'a
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

There is only one official trade union organisation, and the law is not conducive to trade union activities. Strikers were reprimanded in 2010.


Many excessive restrictions apply despite some trade union rights being recognised. While freedom of association is guaranteed in the Constitution, all unions must belong to the General Federation of Worker's Trade Unions of Yemen (GFWTUY), the country's only umbrella union organisation. A proposed Labour Code would allow foreign workers to join trade unions, although they would still not have the right to be elected to trade union office.

While the right to collective bargaining is secured, the Ministry of Labour has the power to veto any collective bargaining agreement. Agreements that are "likely to cause a breach of security or to damage the economic interests of the country" can be annulled.

Furthermore, the right to strike is very limited. Permission to strike must be obtained from the GFWTUY, and all strikes must concern more than two thirds of the workforce of the employer. Three weeks' notice must always be given, and strikes may not be carried out for "political purposes". Also, industrial disputes may be referred to compulsory arbitration at the request of only one of the parties, in which case a strike can be suspended for 85 days, and all strikes are banned in some sectors such as ports, airlines and hospitals.


Background: Since the middle of 2009 clashes between government forces and rebels in the north-west of Yemen have killed hundreds and displaced many more leading to a humanitarian crisis. Unemployment remains extremely high with estimates of up to 40 percent. Many Yemenis are reportedly working for daily wages with little or no job security – one in ten of the workforce is a child. The government promised to improve the labour law to give more union freedom, but without results. A general strike was held in April over rising prices and low wages. Marginalised groups, and the Akhdam social group in particular, suffer from insecure work and low pay with women and children resorting to begging to survive. According to a local NGO, around 99% of sanitation workers are from Akhdam and 95% receive their pay daily instead of monthly.

Unorganised workers lack legal protection: Most construction workers and those in trades such as painting ceramics and shipment services who work in the capital, Sana'a, are employed on a daily basis without a written contract or legal protection. They are frequently cheated by employers and have no recompense in case of accidents. Specific legal provisions are also needed for the protection of workers' organisations and sanctions against anti-union activity by employers.

Employer resistance to organising and bargaining: Many private sector employers do not allow their workers to organise. In both the public and private sector, many trade unions are not allowed to negotiate collective agreements. Strikes do occur however.

Striking oil workers arrested: Workers at the Safer refinery in Marib province went on strike on 10 October to demand financial equity between new plant workers and former workers of the Hunt Oil Company, which was recently restructured along with better working conditions, hours, and pay. Some 47 strikers were later arrested on 19 October. The strike followed a 2009 April strike which ended after the local authorities agreed to find a solution. According to the union there was an agreement mandating equity between these workers.

Journalists denied rights: After a partial strike of journalists working in four media groups and following negotiations with the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate in early 2009, the government agreed to a pay rise and improved contracts. The deal was due to be implemented in 2010 but was left out of the budget, sparking a strike in January. A further planned strike was called off following an agreement which went into force immediately in late January.

Meanwhile fears over the safety of journalists continue. Two journalists were shot in the southern Yemeni city of Ad Dali on 17 January by unknown gunmen. On 16 January 2010 Anisa Mohammed Ali Othman, a female reporter for Al-Wasat newspaper was convicted of 'insulting the Head of State' and sentenced to three months imprisonment and a one year ban from reporting. On 2 May Hossein Al-Leswas, editor and owner of the Al-Tajdid newspaper was sentenced by the Sanaa special court for press and publication offenses to one year imprisonment and a permanent ban on journalism work as punishment for reporting on corruption at a power Company. According to the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate, Al-Leswas has appealed but no date has yet been set for the hearing. On 16 August two journalists were detained and have since been held without charge. Abdelelaah Shaie, a reporter at the official Yemeni News Agency and Kmal Sharaf, a cartoonist at a state owned newspaper al-Gomhoriah were both arrested at their homes and detained by Yemeni National Security.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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