Population: 21,500,000
Capital: Sana'a
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

A single trade union system is in place. Amendments to the labour law are being considered, but these still include far too many restrictions on union rights: there are major limitations on collective bargaining and the right to strike and there is no protection against employers' anti-union discrimination.

Trade union rights in law

Labour law: The 2002 labour law is consistent with some of the provisions of ILO fundamental standards but still contains several restrictions on trade union rights. Draft amendments to the Labour Code contain significant changes, notably the proposal that foreign workers may join trade unions. It seems, however, that they will still not have the right to be elected to trade union office.

Restrictions on union membership and election of officers: Some restrictions remain in the draft, such as the exclusion of domestic workers and civil servants from joining unions. In addition, minors aged between 16 and 18 can only join a trade union if their tutor agrees. Trade unions must be officially registered and there is still a ban on trade unions affiliating with international trade unions. There is no minimum membership for unions and workers may associate by profession or trade.

Single trade union system: The law recognises the right to organise, but all unions must belong to the General Federation of Workers Trade Unions of Yemen (GFWTUY), which is the only umbrella union organisation. Only the GFWTUY general assembly has the responsibility to dissolve unions. That monopoly might be challenged when the law removes all specific references to the GFWTUY.

Strict conditions on the right to strike: The law recognises the right to strike, but imposes strict conditions. Strikes may only be called after the completion of dispute settlement procedures. 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. The proposal to strike must be put to at least 60 per cent of all workers concerned, of whom 25 per cent must vote in favour. The strike call must concern more than two thirds of the workforce of the employer. Permission to strike must be obtained from the GFWTUY and three weeks' notice of the intention to strike must be given.

Strikes are banned in some sectors, such as ports, airlines and hospitals, and may not be carried out for "political purposes".

No protection from anti-union discrimination in the draft law: The draft law does not contain any provisions or sanctions to protect workers from bosses' anti-union discrimination or protect unions from employers' interference.

Collective agreements can be vetoed: Workers are allowed to bargain collectively, but the Ministry of Labour has the power of veto over 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. The ILO has requested the government amend the draft code so that the government may only refuse to register a collective agreement if it contains a procedural flaw or does not conform to minimum standards laid down by the labour legislation.

Trade union rights in practice

The GFWTUY claims that it is not associated with the government. Some trade unions do exist outside the GFWTUY structures.

Strike action does take place, without reprisals, and can lead to the satisfaction of workers' demands.

Anti-union discrimination: The lack of protection in law for trade unionists is felt through discrimination against them, which takes the form of transfers, demotions and dismissals, particularly in the private sector.

Employer resistance to organising and bargaining: Many private sector employers do not allow their workers to organise, while in both the public and private sector, employers often do not allow trade unions to negotiate collective agreements.

Violations in 2006

Reprisals against strikers: Leaders of the Yemen Teachers Union were arrested after organising a demonstration in March. The participants were protesting about the non-application of a law dating back to 2005 that provided for wage increases. Following the uprising many teachers were threatened, suspended or moved to new posts a long way from their homes.

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