Trade Unions in Northern Africa


According to Countryaah, Algeria is a country located in Northern Africa. Trade union rights are statutory, but violations are very common. Strikes are legal and occur frequently. The union has a strong position in society and was one of the most important actors in the uprising in the spring of 2019 that forced President Bouteflika to resign. A wave of protests against the authoritarian government has continued throughout 2019, including a three-day general strike. Only 40 percent of the electorate voted in the presidential election in December in which the military candidate, a former minister in Bouteflika’s government, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, won. The harsh trade union climate and persecution of trade unionists are therefore likely to continue unabated.



The trade union Union Générale des Travailleurs Algériens (UGTA) was from the beginning part of the liberation movement. UGTA played a crucial political role when the one-party system collapsed in 1989. UGTA has declared its independence from all political parties, but has been criticized for its close cooperation with FLN, the leading party.

UGTA has campaigned against sexual harassment and a successful campaign has increased the proportion of women in the labor market. UGTA, which has 2,567,600 members, is affiliated to the ITUC, the Union Syndicale des Travailleurs Magrebiens Arabe, USTMA and the Organization of African Trade Union Unity, OATUU. OATUU Secretary General Arezki Mezhoud hails from Algeria.

An alternative central organization has been formed despite strong opposition from the authorities; The CGATA Confédération générale autonome des travailleurs en Algéri with 268,900 members is also affiliated to the ITUC.


In connection with the Arab Spring of 2011, the free trade union movement grew and became more important in society, but the development was stopped by the military coup in 2013. Egypt is now considered by the World Trade Union, International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC to be one of the ten worst countries in the world. Journalists are attacked and many trade unionists have been arrested. The International Federation of Journalists, IJF, has on several occasions protested against journalists being arrested and freedom of opinion being restricted. The free trade unions are also constantly exposed to the authorities’ attempts to stifle all actual trade union activity. In 2019, conditions have worsened further and a special prosecutor’s office for security offenses has been established. Despite the repression, extensive trade union activities are being conducted and strikes, protests and other trade union actions have increased significantly in recent years. The Egyptian authorities are also under international pressure to accept trade union freedoms and rights.



The Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions, EFTU, was founded in 1957 and was until March 2011 the only central trade union organization. The organization has been controlled by the government and until June 2011, membership in EFTU was mandatory to obtain a work permit. EFTU actively supported General Sisi in the presidential election and claims to have 4.5 million members.

In 2011, two new independent central organizations were formed:
– Egyptian Democratic Labor Congress, EDLC with 120,000 members
– Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions, EFITU with 300,000 members. Both are affiliated with the ITUC.


Libya has had many immigrant workers who lived in very poor conditions and were constantly at risk of deportation. Today, normal trade union activity is hardly possible in Libya, but despite the fact that it is associated with danger to life, trade union actions and strikes occur.



The union was completely government-controlled until the revolution in 2011. In the same year, 15 trade unions from ten countries formed an Arab trade union democratic forum. One of the organizations was the newly formed Free Libyan Workers’ Federation, FLWF.

FLWF is not affiliated with the World Trade Union Confederation, ITUC, but some unions are affiliated with their respective International Trade Unions (Global Union Federations), e.g. two unions joined the International Transport Workers’ Federation, ITF 2013.


The law provides basic trade union rights, but it is not always followed in practice. Some improvements are being made; employees in private homes have received better legal protection, e.g. underage girls are not allowed to work as maids. There is also a general unemployment benefit.

Strikes and various trade union actions occur, but dismissals of trade unionists and disputes due to employers not complying with concluded collective agreements are common. A general strike has been carried out in protest against the government refusing to have a dialogue with the union about a change in the law that raises the retirement age to 63 years. Another union demand is improved legislation on women’s rights.



The trade union movement, which was an important force in the struggle for independence and in the development that took place in connection with the “Arab Spring” in 2011, has diminished in importance. There are three trade union centers affiliated to the global union, the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC

– Union Marocaine du Travail, UMT with 335,000 members.

– Union Générale des Travailleurs du Morocco, UGTM (Facebook) with 320,000 members. UGTM has lost many members in recent years.

– Confédération Démocratique du Travail, CDT with 61,500 members.

UMT exists in all sectors and is not affiliated with any political party. UGTM was started in 1960 by the National Istiqal Party and consisted of people who broke with UMT. CDT, the most militant of the three, was formed in 1978 by the socialist USFP party. All three have local activities and consider themselves to be democratically structured.

The three central organizations work together on many issues.


Although marginal improvements have taken place in recent years, Sudan is still considered one of the most difficult countries in the world to conduct trade union activities in. However, the chance for improvement is considered great with the new political situation. Strikes occur and, among other things, a general strike was carried out in support of the demands for civilian rule in the summer of 2019. Wages in Sudan are judged to be among the lowest in the world. Child labor is common.

Several alternative trade unions have been formed in recent years and the alternative trade union movement is an important part of the democracy movement. Support from the trade union world from outside has also increased.



In 1993, with the support of the regime, the Sudan Workers’ Trade Union Federation (SWTUF) was established as the only central trade union organization. The organization is no longer fully in the regime’s ligaments and has at some point supported strikes.

SWTUF is affiliated with the World Federation of Trade Unions, a trade union international with a communist ideology.


Tunisia is one of 7 countries in North Africa. The central trade union organization UGTT, Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail, was the best organized and driving force in the popular uprising in 2010-11. It has since continued to push for democratic development, which also led to strong contradictions with the Islamist-led government in 2011-13. In 2015, the UGTT’s and its Secretary General Houcine Abbasi received the Nobel Peace Prize for their part in the work of democracy after the 2011 revolution. Regular negotiations on collective agreements for public employees are now being held. There is a’Social contract’ with guidelines for cooperation between the government and UGTT. Trade union rights are guaranteed by law, but violations are not uncommon, especially in the private sector.



After several attempts stopped by the French colonial power, the Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail, UGGT, was formed in 1946. UGGT, the country’s only central organization, has 700,346 members and is a member of the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC. The organization plays an important role in Tunisian society and invests heavily in member education and gender equality. UGTT is also an active organization in several other international trade union organizations: the Union Sindicale des Travailleurs Magrebiens Arabe (USTMA), for the Western Arab world, the Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (ICATU) and the Organization of African Trade Union Unity, OATUU, an African trade union organization independent from the ITUC. UGTT also works actively in a network of women trade union activists in the Arab world.

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