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Sudan

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides that employees of companies with more than 100 workers can form and join independent unions. Other employees can join nearby, preexisting unions. The law establishes a single national trade union federation and excludes police, military personnel, prison employees, legal advisers in the Justice Ministry, and judges from membership. In some cases membership in international unions was not officially recognized.

The Sudan Workers’ Trade Union Federation, a government-controlled federation of 18 state unions and 22 industry unions, is the only official umbrella organization for unions. There were no NGOs that specialized in broad advocacy for labor rights. There were unrecognized “shadow unions” for most professions. For example, the government recognized only the Sudan Journalists Union, whose membership included all journalists, including the spokesperson of the Sudan Air Force, as well as NISS media-censorship officials. Most independent journalists, however, were members of the nonregistered Sudan Journalist Network, which organized advocacy activities on behalf of journalists.

The law denies trade unions autonomy to exercise the right to organize or to bargain collectively. It defines the objectives, terms of office, scope of activities, and organizational structures and alliances for labor unions. The government’s auditor general supervised union funds because they are considered public money. The law regulates unions’ right to conduct strikes. Some unions have by-laws that self-restrict their right to strike. Labor observers believed some of these self-restrictions were imposed to maintain favor with the government. The law requires all strikes in nonessential sectors to receive prior approval from the government after satisfying a set of legal requirements. Specialized labor courts adjudicate standard labor disputes, but the Ministry of Labor has the authority to refer a dispute to compulsory arbitration. Disputes also may be referred to arbitration if indicated in the work contract. The law does not prohibit antiunion discrimination by employers.

Police could break up any strike conducted without prior government approval. There were several cases of strikes reported during the year.

Bureaucratic steps mandated by law to resolve disputes between labor and management within companies may be lengthy. Court sessions may involve additional significant delays and costs when labor grievances are appealed.

The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws. Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were not respected. There were credible reports the government routinely intervened to manipulate professional, trade, and student union elections.

According to the International Trade Union Confederation, in oil-producing regions police and secret service agents, in collusion with oil companies, closely monitored workers’ activities.

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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future