Population: 4,200,000
Capital: Beirut
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The authorities have broad powers to control trade unions. Many migrants, particularly domestic servants, and Palestinian workers lack trade union rights and are poorly treated. Despite the right to strike being restricted, workers went on strike at Kadisha Electricity Company and the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

Trade union rights in law

Trade union rights are not adequately secured, although a new draft amendment to the Labour Code would improve the situation somewhat. The law recognises the right of workers, except government employees, to set up and belong to trade unions. However, prior authorisation is needed from the Ministry of Labour in order to form a trade union. The Ministry also controls all trade union elections, including the date of the election, the procedure and the ratification of the results. Furthermore, unions are prohibited from engaging in any political activity, and the law permits the administrative dissolution of trade unions.

The thresholds for engaging in collective bargaining are high, and all collective agreements must be ratified by two-thirds of the union members at a general assembly.

Although the right to strike is recognised, it is limited by the obligation to announce the number of participants in advance, as well as by the requirement that 5% of the union's members be given responsibility for maintaining order during the strike. The organisers of a strike must also sign a document whereby they assume full responsibility for all damages that occur during a demonstration.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Background: Political tensions in the country make it difficult to carry on trade union activity independently of political manipulation. In November, a new coalition government was finally formed ending five months of deadlock since the elections in June. The deadlock over the new government had threatened Lebanon's stability. Security forces continue to detain opponents and suspects without charge or trial.

Government interference: The government has often interfered in trade union affairs, instigating or aggravating conflicts within the trade union movement. Senior politicians have managed to have their nominees placed on the governing body of the Lebanese General Workers Union (CGTL), causing friction within the union when it opposes government policy.

Migrant workers abused and excluded: An estimated 200,000 domestic workers, primarily from Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and the Philippines, remain essentially outside of crucial labour laws and subject to exploitation and frequent abuse by employers and agencies including non-payment of wages, forced confinement to the workplace, no time off, and verbal or physical abuse. The sponsorship system ties the worker's residency to a specific employer, making it very hard for a domestic worker to change employers, even in cases of abuse. Once employment is terminated the worker loses residency, making it difficult to file complaints because workers' fear detention owing to their illegal status. According to UN sources, 80 Ethiopian women have been in Tripoli Women's Prison for over a year, accused of not having a passport, which was either taken from them when they started as domestic workers, or which they never had in the first place. Most were arrested after running away from their employers – usually because of abuses.

Between October and November alone, at least nine deaths from suicides or botched escapes were reported. As a result, in November, Nepalese authorities stopped permitting domestic workers to go to Lebanon.

During the year, the government issued a decree obliging employers to follow certain rules for domestic workers, including paying the salaries of their employees in full and giving them a day off.

Palestinians denied many rights: There are approximately 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, which accounts for 11% of the Lebanese population. Palestinians are not allowed to form trade unions, as there has to be a reciprocal arrangement with their home state. They are also excluded from many professions reserved for Lebanese nationals, although there have been recent improvements, with more professions opening up to Palestinians.

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