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Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, and the violation of any individual’s labor rights due to his or her union activities. The law requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity, including in essential services. The law applies equally to all individuals working in the public and private sectors, including documented migrants and domestic servants.

The government did not effectively enforce labor laws, which include regulations and administrative instructions that govern employment relations, including rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. According to the Association of Independent Labor Unions in Kosovo (BSPK), resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate. Penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for laws related to civil rights. Administrative and judicial procedures were circuitous and subject to lengthy delays or appeals.

Employers did not always respect the right of worker organizations to bargain collectively, particularly in the private sector. The BSPK reported many private-sector employers essentially ignored labor laws.

The BSPK reported continued difficulty in establishing new independent unions due to employer interference in workers’ associations and unions, particularly in the banking, construction, and hotel sectors. Representatives from these sectors anonymously told the BSPK some employers used intimidation to prevent the establishment of unions. The labor inspectorate reported receiving no formal complaints of discrimination against employees who tried to join unions; however, the inspectorate was not fully functional due to budgetary and staffing shortfalls. In addition, employers did not always respect the rights of worker organizations and unions to bargain collectively or to network with unions outside their organization, particularly in the private sector.


Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of citizen workers to form and join trade unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes, with significant restrictions. The law prohibits trade unions from conducting any political activities. Foreign workers, who constituted more than 80 percent of the workforce, may join unions only as nonvoting members after five years of work in the sector the union represents, provided they obtain a certificate of good conduct and moral standing from the government. They cannot run for seats or vote in board elections. Migrant workers have the right to bargain collectively at their respective workplace but are not permitted to form trade unions. Migrant workers can participate in trade unions and share grievances but are not permitted to vote or run for office. The government generally enforced applicable laws with some exceptions, which were commensurate with those for other laws involving denial of civil rights, such as discrimination. Complaint proceedings were generally not subjected to lengthy delays or appeals for Kuwaitis. The time it takes to resolve complaints for migrant workers depends on the nature of the complaint but is generally longer for migrants than for citizens.

The labor law does not apply to domestic workers or maritime employees. Discrete labor laws set work conditions in the public and private sectors, with the oil industry treated separately. The law permits limited trade union pluralism at the local level. Public sector employees are permitted to unionize, but the government authorized only one federation, the Kuwait Trade Union Federation. The law also stipulates any new union must include at least 100 workers and that at least 15 must be citizens.

The law provides workers, except for domestic workers, maritime workers, and public sector employees, a limited right to collective bargaining. There is no minimum number of workers needed to conclude such agreements. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Public-sector workers do not have the right to strike. Citizens in the private sector have the right to strike, although cumbersome provisions calling for compulsory negotiation and arbitration in the case of disputes limit that right. The law does not prohibit retaliation against striking workers or prevent the government from interfering in union activities, including the right to strike.

As of July the Ministry of Interior arrested 95 employers for issuing residency permits in exchange for money and deported 4,896 residents whose legal status had lapsed. The Ministry of Interior reported that it closed 44 fake domestic worker employment offices.

The International Labor Organization and the International Trade Union Confederation criticized the citizenship requirement for discouraging unions in sectors that employ few citizens, including most private sector employment, such as construction. The government treated worker actions by citizens and migrant workers differently. While citizens and public sector union leaders and workers faced no government repercussions for their roles in union or strike activities, companies directly threatened migrant workers calling for strikes with termination and deportation.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and employer interference with union functions. The law provides for reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. Nevertheless, the law empowers the courts to dissolve any union for violating labor laws or for threatening “public order and morals,” although a union can appeal such a court decision. The Ministry of State for Economic Affairs can request the Court of First Instance to dissolve a union. Additionally, the amir may dissolve a union by decree.


Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law does not provide for the right of workers to form and join worker organizations independent of the Lao Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU), an organ of the LPRP. The law defines collective bargaining but does not set out conditions, and it requires the examination of all collective bargaining agreements by the Labor Administration Agency. The law provides for the right to strike, subject to certain limitations. The law does not permit police, civil servants, foreigners, and members of the armed forces to form or join unions. There is a general prohibition against discrimination against employees for reasons unrelated to performance, although there is no explicit prohibition against antiunion discrimination. There is no explicit requirement for reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

The law requires a workforce of 10 or more workers to elect one or more employee representatives. Where an LFTU-affiliated trade union exists, the head of the union is by default the employee representative. Both representatives and trade union heads may bargain collectively with employers on matters including working conditions, recruitment, wages, welfare, and other benefits.

Trade union law allows workers in the informal economy, including workers outside of labor units or who were self-employed, to join LFTU-affiliated unions. It also establishes rights and responsibilities for “laborer representatives,” which the law defines as “an individual or legal entity selected by the workers and laborers in labor units to be a representative to protect their legitimate rights and interest.”

There was no information on the resources dedicated to enforcement of freedom of association provisions of the labor laws, particularly during the continued COVID-19 lockdown of government offices during the year. Penalties under law for infringing on workers’ freedom of association include fines, incarceration, business license revocation, or some combination of these; these penalties were not commensurate with those for other laws involving civil rights, and there were no reports of enforcement.

The law permits affiliation between unions of separate branches of a company but does not explicitly allow or disallow affiliation at the industry, provincial, or national levels. There were reports that unions not affiliated with the LFTU and without legal standing existed in some industries, including the garment industry, light manufacturing, and agricultural processing.

Trade unions are prohibited from striking or creating a disturbance. Labor disputes reportedly were infrequent, and the Ministry of Labor generally did not enforce the dispute resolution section of labor law, especially in dealings with joint ventures in the private sector. Lockdown measures and fear of COVID-19 limited out-of-home collective activities.

By law workers who join an organization that encourages protests, demonstrations, and other actions that might cause “turmoil or social instability” may face prison time.


Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. Unions may not have fewer than 15 members or less than 25 percent of the total number of employees in the company (which cannot be fewer than five). The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and employer interference in union functions, and it provides reinstatement for unlawful dismissal, including dismissal for union activity.

There were several limitations on these rights. Uniformed members of the military and members of the State Security Services may not form or join unions. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, collective bargaining in the public administration is a formal procedure with no real substance since all employment conditions are fixed by law.

While the law provides for the right to strike, it requires a strike vote by a simple majority at a meeting attended by more than half of the union’s members. It prohibits strikes in sectors related to public safety and by personnel classified as essential, including judges, prosecutors, police, firefighters, border guards, employees of state security institutions, prison guards, and military personnel. The law prohibits “solidarity” strikes by workers who are not directly involved in a specific labor agreement between strikers and their employers, a restriction criticized by local labor groups. It also bans political strikes. The law provides arbitration mechanisms for essential personnel not permitted to strike.

The government generally enforced applicable labor laws. EU labor regulations also applied. Resources, inspections, and remediation were adequate under the law. Penalties for violations were commensurate with those under other civil rights laws, ranging from a few hundred to several thousand euros, but were insufficient to deter violations. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals. Labor rights organizations expressed concern regarding employer discrimination against union members.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were generally respected. The law on trade unions requires trade unions to be independent under the law. Anticorruption officials and press reports stated, however, that external funding and support appeared to make some union individuals or groups lack independence.


Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of private-sector workers to form and join trade unions, bargain collectively, and strike but places restrictions on these rights. In principle, the penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denial of civil rights, such as discrimination. Some private sector worker groups, however, do not enjoy the right to organize and bargain collectively, especially agricultural, domestic, and migrant workers in the informal economy. The Ministry of Labor must approve the formation of unions, and it controlled the conduct of all trade union elections, including election dates, procedures, and ratification of results. The law permits the administrative dissolution of trade unions and bars trade unions from political activity. Unions have the right to strike after providing advance notice to and receiving approval from the Ministry of Interior. Organizers of a strike (at least three of whom must be identified by name) must notify the ministry of the number of participants in advance and the intended location of the strike, and five percent of a union’s members must take responsibility for maintaining order during the strike.

There are significant restrictions on the right to strike. The law excludes public-sector employees, domestic workers, and agricultural workers. Therefore, they have neither the right to strike nor to join and establish unions. The law prohibits public-sector employees from any kind of union activity, including striking, organizing collective petitions, or joining professional organizations. On July 12, however, the board of the Association of Public Administration Employees called for a strike and sick-out from July 15-23 and early dismissal from work on July 12-14. On August 31, public administration employees called for an extension of the strike until September 30 and reported to work only on Wednesdays to process urgent issues for the public. They demanded salary adjustments to compensate for the rising cost of living, an increase in their transportation allowance, and measures to address the decline in health and social benefits under the National Social Security Fund and State Employees Cooperatives. The strike was ongoing at the end of the reporting period.

The law protects the right of workers to bargain collectively, but a minimum of 60 percent of workers must agree on the goals beforehand. Two-thirds of union members at a general assembly must ratify collective bargaining agreements. The Association of Banks in Lebanon renewed the collective sectoral agreement with the Federation of Lebanese Bank Employees Unions in 2019 after nearly three months of mediation between the two parties led by the minister of labor. The Association of Banks in Lebanon had initially refused to renew the agreement.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. By law when employers misuse or abuse their right to terminate a union member’s contract, including for union activity, the worker is entitled to compensation and legal indemnity and may institute proceedings before a conciliation board. The board adjudicates the case, after which an employer may be compelled to reinstate the worker, although this protection is available only to the elected members of a union’s board. Anecdotal evidence showed widespread antiunion discrimination in both the public and private sectors, although this issue did not receive significant media coverage. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), the most flagrant abuses occurred in banking, private schools, retail businesses, daily and occasional workers, and the civil service.

By law foreigners with legal resident status may join trade unions. According to the ILO, however, most unions do not encourage or accept the participation of foreign workers. The law permits migrant workers to join existing unions (regardless of nationality and reciprocity agreements) but denies them the right to form their own unions. They do not enjoy full membership since they may neither vote in trade union elections nor run for union office. Certain sectors of migrant workers, such as migrant domestic workers, challenged the binding laws supported by some unions by forming their own autonomous structures that acted as unions, although the Ministry of Labor has not approved them.

Palestinian refugees generally may organize their own unions. Because of restrictions on their right to work, few refugees participated actively in trade unions. While some unions required citizenship, others were open to foreign nationals whose home countries had reciprocity agreements with Lebanon.

The government’s enforcement of applicable law was weak, including prohibitions on antiunion discrimination.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were not always respected. The government and other political actors interfered with the functioning of worker organizations, particularly the main federation, the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers (CGTL). The CGTL is the only national confederation recognized by the government, although several unions boycotted and unofficially or officially broke from the CGTL and no longer recognized it as an independent and nonpartisan representative of workers. Since 2012 the Union Coordination Committee (UCC), a grouping of public and private teachers as well as civil servants, played a major role in pushing the government to pass a promised revised salary scale, largely overshadowing the CGTL. While the UCC is not formally recognized by any government body, it acts as an umbrella organization and guides several recognized leagues of workers in demonstrating and in negotiating demands. During the 2019 national budget debate, both the CGTL and UCC failed to take leadership of worker protest actions successfully or to express coherently the demands and aspirations of working persons. In 2019 the CGTL was further weakened when union president Antoine Bechara was interrogated by the ISF Cybercrime Bureau over a complaint filed by then minister of economy Raed Khoury. In 2019 Bechara was arrested and pressured to resign after a video was leaked showing him insulting and making offensive comments against late Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, but he was re-elected in July 2020. The National Federation of Workers and Employees in Lebanon emerged as another alternative to represent the independent trade union movement.

The economic and financial collapse, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ensuing political unrest exacerbated challenges in the labor sector, including an increased rate of unemployment, increased dismissal of employees, partial salary payments, deteriorating working conditions, and an increased number of businesses shutting down. The Syndicate of Restaurants, Nightclubs, and Pastries announced that its membership decreased from 8,500 in 2019 to 3,700 in the year. The secretary general of the Economic Institutions association announced that 60 percent of retail shops and commercial institutions had closed since 2019. The Ministry of Labor formed a crisis committee to investigate the unlawful termination of contracts, but it did not include foreign domestic workers in its review. Multiple international organizations reported in September 2020 that domestic workers were adversely affected by the port explosion since many were suddenly laid off or rendered homeless along with their employers. Antiunion discrimination and other instances of employer interference in union functions occurred. Some employers fired workers in the process of forming a union before the union could be formally established and published in the official gazette.


Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

By law workers in the private sector have the right to join and form trade unions of their own choosing without prior authorization or excessive bureaucratic requirements. The law prohibits civil servants and police from joining or forming unions but allows them to form staff associations for collective bargaining and promoting ethical conduct of their members. All trade unions must register with the Office of the Registrar of Trade Unions. Registration requires that more than 35 percent of workers in an enterprise of 10 persons or more be unionized. Only the members of a registered trade union, which must represent more than 35 percent of the employees (of an employer with 10 or more employees), are entitled to elect workplace union representatives. The employees (of an employer with 10 or more employees) are entitled to elect workplace union representatives. The registrar may refuse to register a trade union if the provisions of its constitution violate the labor code. The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference.

The law significantly limits the right to strike. In the private sector, the law requires workers and employers to follow a series of procedures designed to resolve disputes before the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR), an independent government body, authorizes a strike. A registered union with a 51 percent majority of staff may call a strike on a “dispute of interest” (a demand that goes beyond labor code stipulations). If mandatory negotiations between employer and employees reach a deadlock, a union may file with the DDPR for permission to embark on a strike. Typically, the employer and employees agree on the strike rules and its duration. Employers may also invoke a lockout clause and should inform DDPR of their intention to invoke the clause based on employer-employee agreement. The law does not permit civil servants, military, and essential workers to strike.

By law the Public Service Joint Advisory Council provides for due process and protects civil servants’ rights. The council consists of equal numbers of members appointed by the minister of public service and members of associations representing at least 50 percent of civil servants. The council concludes and enforces collective bargaining agreements, prevents and resolves disputes, and provides procedures for dealing with general grievances. Furthermore, the Public Service Tribunal handles appeals brought by civil servants or their associations. During the year five cases were adjudicated, and one was closed.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and other employer interference in union functions. The law provides for reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity. The law does not cover the informal sector and excludes the self-employed from relevant legal protections. There were reports foreign employers at construction companies did not rehire 106 workers who joined unions following a March-May 2020 COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. The Construction, Mining, Quarrying, and Allied Workers Union stated that one construction company dismissed 75 workers for joining unions. Some employers threatened union leaders and denied them the opportunity to meet with their members.

The government effectively enforced applicable law with disputed cases typically resolved within one to six months at the DDPR. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations. The Labor Court’s independence remained questionable because it is under the authority of the Ministry of Labor and Employment (Ministry of Labor), despite a 2011 law transferring it to the judiciary.

The government and employers generally respected freedom of association and collective bargaining. Government approval is not required for collective agreements to be valid. The law protects collective bargaining but places restrictions on factory workers. Although factory workers have bargaining power, the law requires any union entering negotiations with management to represent at least 50 percent of workers in a factory. Only a few factories met that condition, and unions at factories where union membership is below 50 percent may not represent workers collectively in negotiations with employers. In 2015 the Factory Workers Union (FAWU), Lesotho Clothing and Allied Workers Union, and National Union of Textile Workers merged to form the Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL) to strengthen their bargaining power. The National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union, which separated from FAWU, was active. Since 2018 the three largest unions (IDUL, United Textile Employees, and the National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union) worked together to address workers’ issues, resulting in stronger collective bargaining. All worker organizations were independent of the government and political parties. Most unions focused on organizing apparel workers.

Factory owners in the apparel industry were generally willing to bargain collectively on wages and working conditions but only with trade unions that represented at least 50 percent of workers. Factory decisions concerning labor disputes are determined by companies’ headquarters, which are usually located outside the country. In the retail sector, employers generally respected the freedom to associate and the right to bargain collectively, although retail unions complained employers commonly appealed Labor Court rulings to delay their implementation. The Labor Court was subject to judicial delays given its case backlog.

In April factory workers held a 27-day protest demanding the government publish the minimum wage gazettes for 2020 and 2021. The law stipulates that effective April 1, the minimum wage increment must be published annually. The workers further urged Minister of Labor and Employment Moshe Leoma to pass the amended Labor Code pending since 2006. The workers complained the government approved COVID-19 pandemic regulations without their contribution. These regulations led to delivery delays and factory closures. Some factory worker protests turned violent and resulted in two deaths: One person died after being struck by a vehicle during the protest, and police allegedly shot and killed Mots’illisi Ramanasi on May 25 during a factory worker protest in the Ha Tsolo area of Maseru. Following the incident, Ramanasi was transported by police to Maseru Private Hospital. An apparent examination from Maseru Private Hospital confirmed Ramanasi was shot. She was subsequently transferred to Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH) where she died. The postmortem report indicated Ramanasi died as a result of being stabbed with a sharp object. Members of the trade union filed a lawsuit accusing QMMH of hiding evidence related to Ramanasi’s death. Protesters vandalized buildings and blocked roads with burning tires.

On June 8, the workers returned to work after the Lesotho Textile Exporters’ Association issued an ultimatum for them to return or face dismissal. On June 15, the government published a gazette reflecting a 14 percent minimum wage increase for textile factory workers and a 9 percent increase for other industries in the private sector.

According to the Lesotho Public Servants Staff Association (LEPSSA), 34 percent of civil servants belonged to the association. LEPSSA reported most civil servants did not register for membership in the association because they were not aware of its existence. LEPSSA has also reported that the Public Service Act of 2005 allows only workers from grade A to H (junior officers) to join the association while grade I to K (managers) are not allowed to join the association. The low rate of participation made it difficult for LEPSSA to engage with the government on workers’ rights problems, resulting in declining membership trends from 6,500 members in the 2017/18 financial year to 4,040 members in the 2021/22 financial year. In July LEPSSA filed a Constitutional Court application against the minister of labor for denial of its right to register as a civil servants’ trade union as enshrined in the constitution.

The Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA) stated 98 percent of all police officers were members of the organization, an increase from 92 percent in 2019. In 2019 police embarked on a “go-slow” work action and countrywide protest against the government’s failure to pay a risk allowance and 6 percent salary increase. Police also complained of a lack of uniforms and unclear transfer and promotion criteria. The government granted the salary increase in 2019. On September 2020 LEPOSA requested a permit to march to present grievances, but the minister of police declined, citing the law stating police were not allowed to protest. LEPOSA made a recommendation to the prime minister to dismiss Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli for incompetency and mismanagement of the police force. Because the infighting between LEPOSA and the commissioner disrupted the police force, the prime minister appointed an interministerial committee to investigate the matter. Based on the interministerial committee’s findings, the prime minister rejected LEPOSA’s demand to dismiss Molibeli. In April, Molibeli dismissed LEPOSA’s public relations officer, Motlatsi Mofokeng, due to his failure to disclose a conviction prior to joining the police force. Molibeli had asked Mofokeng to show cause why he could not dismiss him for failure to disclose his conviction. In March Mofokeng reportedly departed the country amid unsubstantiated rumors that police officers had been ordered to arrest and kill him.

From February 1 to March 11, nurses at Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital went on a strike demanding their salaries of 9,000 maloti ($638) per month be increased to 13,000 maloti ($921) to match those of their counterparts in government and in private hospitals. The Lesotho Nursing Council urged the nurses to stop their strike, arguing the strike put patients’ lives at risk and tarnished the image of the nursing and the midwifery professions. On February 24, a Labor Court interim ruling ordered the nurses to return to work pending the finalization of their case; however, the nurses continued to strike. On March 12, hospital management dismissed 345 nurses after they failed to comply with an interim Labor Court ruling of February 25 that ordered them to return to work. There was a pending Labor Court case.


Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides workers, except public servants and employees of state-owned enterprises, the right to freely form or join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes or engage in “go-slow” (a protest by workers in which they deliberately work slowly). The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and allows unions to conduct their activities without interference by employers, parties, or government, but it does not provide adequate protection. The law provides, “All employers and workers in Liberia, without distinction whatsoever, may establish and join organizations of their own choosing, without prior authorization, and subject only to the rules of the organization concerned.” The law provides that labor organizations and associations have the right to draw up their constitutions and rules on electing their representatives, organizing their activities, and formulating their programs. There is no minimum number of workers needed, and foreigner and migrant members are not prohibited, although a long approval process or denial on arbitrary grounds could be hurdles to registration.

The government’s Labor Practices Review Board has the right to supervise trade union elections, which the International Confederation of Trade Unions termed an interference in a union’s right to organize its administration. Trade and labor unions are registered with, and licensed by, the Ministry of Labor, which represents the government in the labor and employment sector. The Bureau of Trade Union Affairs & Social Dialogue is the arm of the ministry that coordinates the activities of the social partners, trade unions, and employer organizations in the labor sector.

Public-sector employees and employees of state-owned enterprises are prohibited under the Civil Service Standing Orders from unionizing and bargaining collectively, but they may join associations and process grievances through the Civil Service Agency grievance board. The Standing Orders outlines the rules and regulations governing the conduct of the civil service as well as addressing issues affecting civil servants. Representatives from the Ministry of Labor, Liberia Labor Congress, and Civil Servants Association continued to argue the Standing Orders conflict with Article 17 of the constitution, which affords the right to associate in trade unions. Some public-sector associations, including the National Teachers’ Association of Liberia for public school teachers and the National Health Workers’ Union of Liberia composed of public health workers, declared themselves to be unions despite the law, and the Liberia Labor Congress and Ministry of Labor backed their efforts to unionize.

By law parties engaged in essential services are also prohibited from striking. The law provides that the National Tripartite Council (comprising the Ministry of Labor, Liberian Chamber of Commerce, and Liberian Federation of Labor Unions) shall recommend to the minister all or part of a service to be an essential service if, in the opinion of the National Tripartite Council, the interruption of that service would endanger the life, personal safety, or health of the whole or any part of the population. As of year’s end, the National Tripartite Council had not published a list of essential services. The act does not apply to public-sector workers, who are under the ambit of the Civil Service Standing Orders.

The law provides for the right of workers to conduct legal strikes, provided they have attempted and failed to resolve the dispute through conciliation within 30 days of the minister of labor receiving an application for referral to conciliation and have given the Ministry of Labor 48 hours’ notice of their intent to strike. On matters of national security, the president may request the minister of labor to appoint a conciliator to mediate any dispute or potential dispute. The law prohibits unions from engaging in partisan political activity and prohibits agricultural workers from joining industrial workers’ organizations. It also prohibits strikes if the disputed parties have agreed to refer the issue to arbitration, if the issue is already under arbitration or in court, and if the parties engage in essential services as designated by the National Tripartite Council.

Although the law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for reinstatement for workers dismissed for union activity, it allows for dismissal without cause if the company provides the mandated severance package. It does not prohibit retaliation against strikers whose strikes comply with the law if they commit “an act that constitutes defamation or a criminal offense, or if the proceedings arise from an employee being dismissed for a valid reason.”

The government did not effectively enforce the law in every sector. The law does not provide adequate protection for strikers, and some protections depended on whether property damage occurred and was measurable. Penalties were not commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays or appeals and to outside interference, such as bribes, coercion, and intimidation by politicians. According to the International Labor Organization, most union workers in an enterprise must be represented in order to engage in collective bargaining.

On July 6-7, Liberia Electric Corporation workers staged protests over several labor issues, including a reduction in salaries and alleged bad labor practices. The Ministry of Labor intervened by instituting measures to address workers’ grievances. On July 19, a group of health workers demonstrated peacefully outside of the government-run referral hospital in the commercial city of Kakata in Margibi County to demand that the government pay outstanding salary arrears. On July 21, National Transit Authority employees staged a series of protests over several labor grievances, which included salary arrears.


Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law does not provide for the right of workers to form and join independent unions. It provides for the right of workers to bargain collectively and conduct legal strikes, with significant restrictions. The law neither prohibits antiunion discrimination nor requires the reinstatement of workers for union activity. By law workers in the formal sector are automatically members of the General Trade Union Federation of Workers, although they may elect to withdraw from the union. Only citizens may be union members, and regulations do not permit foreign workers to organize. According to Freedom House, some trade unions formed after the 2011 revolution, but they remained in their infancy, and collective-bargaining activity was severely limited due to the continuing hostilities and weak rule of law.

The GNU was limited in its ability to enforce applicable labor laws. The requirement that all collective agreements conform to the “national economic interest” restricted collective bargaining. Workers may call strikes only after exhausting all conciliation and arbitration procedures. The government or one of the parties may demand compulsory arbitration, thus severely restricting strikes. The government has the right to set and cut salaries without consulting workers. State penalties were not commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination.

Employees organized spontaneous strikes, boycotts, and sit-ins in a number of workplaces, generally to protest delays in salary payments.

North Korea

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

Workers do not have the right to form or join independent unions, bargain collectively, or strike. No information was available regarding labor organizations other than those created and controlled by the government. While the law stipulates employees working for foreign companies may form trade unions and foreign enterprises must provide conditions for union activities, the law does not protect workers who might attempt to engage in union activities from employer retaliation, nor does it provide penalties for employers who interfere in union activities. The constitution stipulates the freedom of assembly for citizens, but this right was not protected in practice. Unlawful assembly may result in five years of correctional labor.

The WPK purportedly represents the interests of all labor. The WPK Central Committee directly controlled several labor organizations in the country, including the General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea and the Union of Agricultural Workers of Korea. Operating under this umbrella, unions functioned according to a classic Stalinist model, with responsibility for mobilizing workers to support production goals and for providing health, education, cultural, and welfare facilities, but did not provide a means for worker expression.

The government controlled all aspects of the formal employment sector, including assigning jobs and determining wages. Joint ventures and foreign-owned companies were required to hire employees from government-vetted lists. The government organized factory and farm workers into councils, which purportedly afforded a mechanism for workers to provide input into management decisions.

South Korea

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of most workers to form and join independent unions, conduct strikes within strict limits, and bargain collectively, but certain limitations apply.

The law recognizes most workers’ right to strike. Labor and employers in businesses deemed to be “essential services” are required to agree on a plan to maintain a minimum level of services for the public interest during a strike. Essential services include railroads, air transport, communications, water supply, and hospitals. The trade union law prohibits the use of replacement workers to conduct general business disrupted by legal strikes, but in essential services employers may hire replacements for up to 50 percent of striking workers.

By law parties involved in a “labor dispute” must first undergo third-party mediation through the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) before registering to strike. Strikes initiated following this period are legal if they obtain majority support from union membership. The law narrowly defines “labor dispute,” which makes strikes on many issues falling under managerial control, such as downsizing and layoffs, illegal. Strikes not specifically pertaining to labor conditions, wages, benefits, or working hours are illegal. Participating in strikes falling outside of the legally prescribed definition may result in imprisonment or a fine for the organizers and participants.

Laws banning education workers from engaging in certain political activities, such as joining a political party or openly endorsing a political party or candidate, constrained unions’ abilities to advocate for their positions. An amended law took effect in July allowing dismissed workers to maintain their union membership. The previous administration had used this rule to decertify or prevent legal recognition of unions with dismissed workers among their ranks, namely the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union and the Korean Government Employees Union. Both unions regained legal recognition under the current administration.

The law permits workers to file complaints of unfair labor practices against employers who interfere with union organizing or who discriminate against union members. The law prohibits retribution against workers who strike legally, and the NLRC may order employers to reinstate workers fired for lawful union activities.

The government generally enforced legislation related to freedom of association, collective bargaining, and collective action, including legal strikes, and the penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights. In addition, an employer may be penalized for noncompliance with a labor relations commission order to reinstate a worker. The law sets penalties in the form of fines or imprisonment against employers who refuse unions’ lawful requests for bargaining.

Labor organizations generally operated without government interference.

Some “dispatched workers” (those on temporary contracts) said they faced increased risk of nonrenewal of their work contract if they joined unions or engaged in industrial disputes. Some undocumented foreign workers avoided participating in union activities due to fear of exposing themselves to arrest and deportation.

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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future