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30 April 2015

Lebanon: Migrant Works to Call for Recognition of Domestic Workers Union

Domestic workers in Lebanon plan to march through central Beirut on Sunday, 3 May 2015, urging authorities to recognise the establishment of the country's first Domestic Workers Union.

For six consecutive years, domestic workers in Lebanon have marked International Workers Day by calling for better treatment and access to legal protection mechanisms.

On December 29, 2014, six Lebanese workers submitted a request to the Labor Ministry to form a union. The union seeks to represent workers who provide care in homes for the elderly and those with disabilities, those who provide cleaning services in homes and offices, and some other migrant workers. Many of these laborers face physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse.

A month later, on January 25, approximately 350 domestic workers of various nationalities gathered for the union’s inaugural congress. Numerous international organizations pledged their support for the proposed union, including the International Trade Union Federation (ITUC), the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the Federation of Trade Unions of Workers and Employees (FENASOL) in Lebanon. Union members told Front Line Defenders they have received no response to their request, while Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi recently said the union was illegal. If Lebanon approves the request, it will become the first Arab nation to allow migrant domestic workers to form a union.

Front Line Defenders urges the Lebanese authorities to ensure the right to freedom of association for domestic workers, to recognise the workers union, and to allow space for people defending labor rights in Lebanon.