CAIRO: The president of Egypt’s first independent trade union in 50 years, Kamal Abu Eita, has challenged claims that Egyptian workers support President Hosni Mubarak standing for a sixth term in office in 2011.
“In the name of 22 million workers I call on President Mubarak to nominate himself for the presidency for a new term, he represents a safety valve for this country, Hussein Megawer, president of the state-controlled Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions (EFTU) was quoted as saying by independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm Sunday.
Manpower Minister Aisha Abdel-Hady also weighed in to support Mubarak, reportedly telling the general assembly that “workers cannot abandon Mubarak when he is known for taking stances in the service of Egypt’s workers.
Megawer made his comments during EFTU’s general assembly meeting, held under the slogan “For the Love of Egypt, while outside, members of the “Mesh Hankhaf (We Won’t be Scared) group, staged a demonstration protesting the dismissal of workers from various factories.
EFTU has consistently been subject to allegations by some workers that it fails to represent their interests and that its president is a government lackey. EFTU opponents are particularly critical of the union’s top-down structure and cronyism within the organization that, they say, prevents genuine labor leaders from progressing to positions of leadership.
These and other charges led real estate tax authority workers one year ago to form the Union of Real Estate Tax Authority Employees (URETAE), Egypt’s first independent union since the formation of EFTU in the mid-1950s.
Under the presidency of Kamal Abu Eita, the unofficial independent union has signed-up over 40,000 of Egypt’s 50,000 real estate tax collectors.
EFTU has responded to the founding of Union of Real Estate Tax Authority Employees (URETAE) with a media campaign attempting to discredit the union and criminal charges raised against Abu Eita himself.
Most recently, Megawer announced the establishment of a 24th trade union under the EFTU’s umbrella, dedicated to employees in the financial, customs and tax sectors. This was regarded by some observers as another attempt to challenge the URETAE’s legitimacy and win back some of the ground that the EFTU had lost to Abu Eita.
Abu Eita told Daily News Egypt that the new union will in no way affect the URETAE.
“As the Egyptian proverb goes, ‘Ahmed is like El Haj Ahmed’ – the new trade union is just like the old trade union, they are all the same. People have lost faith in all trade unions.
Abu Eita dismissed Megawer’s claim that Egypt’s workers are backing Mubarak for a sixth term as president.
“Did Hussein Megawer ever ask the workers for their opinion? Whatever he is saying is his own personal opinion. There is an enmity between workers and [Megawer] so why does he speak for them? Abu Eita said.
“If Megawer asks workers to vote for Mubarak then they will just oppose his will and will not vote for him…He has betrayed the workers. he cannot speak for workers, let him speak for himself. -Additional reporting by Omnia Al Desoukie.