Egyptian Trade Unions update
With 2016, the situation of Egyptian political forces and Civil Society Organizations is deteriorating within an increasingly complex environment considerably shrinking the public space and preventing any opportunities of social mobility, combined with an unprecedented economic crisis. When we examine the area of workers’ rights, it is easy to notice the difficulties faced by independent trade unions defied by the “official” General Federation of Trade Unions which is totally backed by the State agencies in an attempt to exert the State hegemony over the working class.
Therefore, independent trade unions are confronted with a central power headed by a government that acknowledges only the hierarchical structures, relying for this on an entirely dependent Federation ready to comply with all the requisites of the governmental agenda, including that of humiliating workers, denying the legacy of their claims and even violating their basic rights. On the other hand, the Egyptian Parliament is falling under the supremacy of a pro-governmental coalition endorsing all the decisions dictated by the State apparatus.
Moreover, the parliamentarian commission of the labor force is under the control of men belonging to the formal Federation in order to counteract any attempts initiated by independent trade unions ; the power of this commission is it has the authority to adopt the legislation proposed by the State, or even to shape more restrictive legislations against freedoms and workers’ rights. In addition, we refer to the interventions of security and intelligence forces that are always super ready to enforce judgments related to firing workers, imprisonment, including the practice of threats and forced disappearance.
The labor’s movement is also victim of the coercive attitudes of patrons towards their workers and the leadership of the labor’s movement. All this happens within an obvious weakness of the parties responsible of monitoring the status of workers and that of the labor market, reaching sometimes the extent of connivance with other forms of repression. This gives free hands to businessmen in practicing their power and even violating the terms of laws with no fear from punishment.
Close to the end of 2016, it is clear that the policies adopted by the State are in favor of safeguarding the existence of the General Federation as a useful tool to break the resistance of workers. This role is highly valued by the upper spheres and the representatives of the Federation are preciously kept in post regardless the many scandals of corruption they are involved in. As an illustration, Law 35/1976 about trade unions and endorsed by the Parliament last June is granting an important immunity to these representatives and allows them to pursue their role safely.
Furthermore, representatives of independent trade unions were removed from the Egyptian delegation participating in the World Conference of Workers held in Geneva during the month of June 2016. This represented another attack against the movement of independent trade unions that is actually the real representative of workers suffering from the violation of their rights.
The battle around the law of trade unions’ freedoms is still ongoing between a draft law presented by the government in the absence of any social debate including several contraventions of Egypt’s international commitments, and another draft law that was jointly developed and agreed upon by representatives of independent trade unions, thematic and geographic federations, as well as legal and economic experts.
Freedom of expression and of organizing are being systematically prohibited and represent a major label of the ruling force policies ; this dead end horizon is not promising whatsoever and does not allow for an effective dialogue at the social level enabling to enhance the productivity and to open the door for improved means of human development. On the contrary, it looks rather like the last closed bastion, i.e. the corner where the player finds himself besieged.
Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services (CTUWS)