CAIRO: Egyptian rights group the Center for Trade Union Workers’ Services (CTUWS) says that existing legislation governing trade union activity must be amended.
“Revision of the legal framework governing trade union activity is now urgently needed as never before, CTUWS says in its statement of ‘Principles for the legal framework surrounding trade union activity, issued this week.
“Anger, disputes and protests are now the reality of labor relations because the mechanisms necessary for reconciliation and negotiation do not exist, the statement reads.
CTUWS head Kamal Abbas explained to Daily News Egypt that the statement of principles forms part of a campaign aimed at the amendment of Egyptian labor law.
“We initiated the campaign in September with a roundtable discussion in which obstacles to the right of association were discussed by labor activists and Ahmed Hassan El-Borai, a member of the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) expert committee.
“We also recently issued a booklet summarizing the 97th ILO conference, with reference to Egypt.
During the ILO meeting, held in June, Egypt was given until November 2009 to study and respond to remarks made by the ILO concerning inconsistencies between domestic legislation and fundamental labor standards embodied in core labor treaties ratified by it.
CTUWS are calling for the enactment of the right to form autonomous, self-governing, trade unions, the right to strike and the right to collective bargaining.
It blames the existing crisis in labor relations on problems in the current Trade Union Law and Labor Law which it calls the “product of a bygone era.
Under existing law workers do not have the right to from trade unions outside the umbrella of the state-controlled Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions (EFTU), a three-tiered hierarchy which workers say fails to represent their interests.
Public and government sector workers automatically and ineluctably become members of the EFTU organization in their particular industry, with monthly fees deducted from their wages.
Under existing legislation workers’ right to strike is severely curtailed.
Workers also say that representatives of security bodies are routinely present during collective bargaining sessions.
In April this year, intimidation by security bodies was held partly accountable for the collapse of a strike in the Ghazl El-Mahalla spinning mill.
The mill’s more than 20,000 workers had previously staged two successful strikes in 2006 and 2007.
“There is a vast difference between the entities described in Trade Union Law 35, and the trade unions which workers build themselves in order to represent their interests and bargain with . employers and the state, CTUWS’ statement reads.
“The ‘trade unions’ put in place by Law 35 are entities entirely independent of workers, created by the state in order to compel [workers] to implement the state’s objectives and plans, it continues.
As a result of the failure of the existing trade union structure to adapt to liberal economic policies introduced in Egypt since the 1980s, workers in the growing private sector have no union representation “and entire generations of new workers are not joining the trade union movement, CTUWS says in its statement.
CTUWS points out that in enactment of ILO standards, Egyptian workers must be allowed to join and leave unions freely without repercussions in the form of harassment or discrimination, either on the shop floor or from employers.
In addition, trade unions must be immune from dissolution or suspension by administrative bodies.
Abbas says that the aim of the campaign is to inform and influence decision-makers ahead of Egypt’s meeting with the ILO in April 2009.
“We’re listing the most fundamental aspects of problems in Egyptian law in an attempt to inform individuals who may be involved in drawing up new legislation ahead of the meeting in April, Abbas said.
“During this meeting a committee of experts from the ILO will meet Egyptian businessmen, trade union activists and government representatives to examine domestic legislation and Egypt’s international treaty commitments.