Population: 390,000
Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 182

There was virtually no union activity in Brunei, and there is no legal basis for either collective bargaining or strikes.

Trade union rights in law

Limited rights in law, no provision for collective bargaining, no coverage of migrant workers: The Trade Union Act of 1961 authorises the creation of trade unions, which must be registered with the government. The law prohibits employers from any sort of discrimination against workers connected to trade union activities, and unions are permitted to form federations. However, the law prohibits unions and federations from affiliating with international trade union bodies unless they receive prior written consent from both the Minister of Home Affairs and the Labour Department.

Civil servants are permitted to form and join unions, except for those in the army, police, and prisons, but none have done so.

There is no provision in law that underpins the right to collective bargaining. An individual contract is required between an employer and each employee, and trade union activities are not allowed to violate these individual employee contracts.

The law does not explicitly recognise any right to strike.

The majority of labour laws only apply to citizens of Brunei, thereby failing to cover skilled and unskilled migrant workers, who comprise between 30 to 40 per cent of the total workforce.

There is one export processing zone, the Muara Export Zone, where labour laws apply in full.

Brunei became a member of the ILO on 17 January 2007, but has not yet ratified the conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Suspension of democratic rights prevents trade union activity: Constitutional provisions regarding fundamental rights of freedom of speech, association, press and assembly remain suspended under a state of emergency declaration dating from 1962 and renewed by the government every two years. Government permission is required for holding a public meeting involving more than ten people and the police can break up any unofficial meeting of over five people if they regard it as liable to disturb the peace. The Sultan appoints all ministers in the Cabinet and all judges, who do his bidding.

There are only three trade unions registered in the country, all in the oil industry, and they represent less than 5% of the total workforce in the industry. There was virtually no discernible trade union activity in 2007.

Migrant workers: According to government statistics, there are some 88,000 migrant workers in the country, with around 5,775 in the clothing sector. None of them are union members.

Some migrant workers have reportedly carried out work stoppages in protest against bad working conditions and unpaid wages.

This 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.