The Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) called on its members Sunday to vote Yes on the upcoming constitutional referendum while also expressing solidarity with the Egyptian Iron and Steel (HADISOLB) workers.
The announcement was made at the ETUF’s headquarters, where a press conference was held to clarify its stance on the upcoming constitutional referendum.
Previous controversy had arisen when the ETUF withdrew from the Constituent Assembly following the removal of an article present since the 1960s mandating that 50% of parliamentary seats be reserved for farmers and labourers.
The Constituent Assembly, which was responsible for drafting the upcoming constitution, drafted two articles to compensate for quota’s removal. The new articles oblige future legislation to “adequately” represent youth, Christians, the disabled, Egyptian expatriates, farmers and laborers in parliament.
ETUF chairman Abdel Fatah Ibrahim highlighted the union’s dissatisfaction with the draft constitution but also said “the workers have a national duty to vote Yes.”
“The union workers have decided to launch the first public convention to urge workers and the masses to vote Yes in the upcoming referendum… several other conferences will be held in different governorates to call on all political forces to unite for the success of the roadmap,” he added.
During the press conference, several dismissed workers interrupted the chairman’s statement and chanted against the constitution.
The dismissed workers expressed their discontent, saying that they would vote No because the draft does not preserve the right of the workers. Ibrahim ordered their removal from the hall, accusing them of being “terrorists” and belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood.
After the press conference the dismissed workers filed a police complaint against ETUF chairman Abdel Fatah Ibrahim, accusing him of “employing thugs to violently assault and remove them, even though they were asking for legitimate rights.”
Tarek Al-Behairy, board-member of the Independent Democratic Syndicate for Egyptian Workers, a syndicate viewed largely as in opposition to the ETUF, accused Ibrahim of wanting to “autocratically control” labour unions in Egypt.
Al-Behairy said that EFUF’s call for a Yes vote was “due to the Constituent Assembly passing Article 77″, which states that every profession is to be regulated by a single trade union.
“This will allow the ETUF to control every profession and all workers in an oppressive manner, and this is what compelled Ibrahim to overlook the quota related articles,” said Al-Behairy.
The ETUF is the largest labour union in Egypt, with over 6 million members.