ETUF sec-gen says board dissolution illegal, activists welcome decision

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CAIRO: Secretary General of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) Mohamed Morsi described Cabinet’s decision to disband the board as illegal while labor activists welcomed the announcement.

Director of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) Khalid Ali said the move was "completely legal."

The news was widely welcomed by labor activists who have long criticized the ETUF’s affiliation with the former regime and demanded fostering a greater role for independent unions.

Morsi, however, told Daily News Egypt on Friday, "We will contest the decision [before an administrative court] if confirmed.”

"There is no official decision yet. We just heard the news like everybody else that cited the Cabinet official spokesman," he added.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf reportedly ordered the dissolution of the ETUF’s board ahead of elections slated for later this year based on a memo presented by Minister of Manpower Ahmed El-Boraie.

The caretaker Cabinet also tasked El-Boraie with forming a temporary committee to run the federation until elections are held.

However, Morsi said, "The Cabinet has no legal right to disband the union. The judiciary is the only authority that can take such a decision. The federation will hold an urgent meeting gathering board members and those of the syndicates on Friday to decide the next move.”

The government’s move enforced administrative court verdicts dating back to 2006, which invalidated elections of the union’s committees nationwide for not being fully supervised by the judiciary.

The court ruling was long ignored by the former government.

"All court orders were issued against the committees of syndicates that form the federation, none of which entailed dissolving the ETUF board itself," Morsi argued. "Even the federation members were not selected via polls. It comprises representatives of syndicates chosen by acclamation," he added.

Ali, also a lawyer, told DNE, "The court orders were against the former manpower minister’s decree number 300 of 2006 that regulates the electoral process.

"The problem with the federation board is that it was supposed to be formed via voting not by acclamation and fully supervised by the judiciary, which is not the case."

Most recently, labor activists filed a lawsuit based on judicial rulings that its previous elections were forged and its leaders were engaged in organizing attacks on protesters in Tahrir Square during the 18-day uprising that toppled the previous regime.

A parallel entity was formed by workers following the Jan. 25 uprising.

Activists and workers have long complained of the state’s control over the ETUF, calling for the independence of the 2.5 million-member trade union.

The federation was also accused of being used by the former regime to mobilize supporters for the government and the disbanded National Democratic Party (NDP), especially during parliamentary elections.

A few days before he presented the memo to the premier, several rights groups, including ECESR, called for sacking El-Boraie for not abiding by judicial orders, threatening to file a lawsuit against him.

The ETUF internal elections will be held between October and November under total judicial supervision to elect new leaderships that will hold office until 2016.

Kamal Abbas, general coordinator of Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services (CTUWS), previously told DNE, "The ETUF is illegitimate and must be disbanded because its membership is compulsory — contrary to the rules of syndicates — its elections were proven to be forged by court rulings and [its officials] participated in actions against the revolution.”

"It is one of the ousted regime’s tools and must be [fully] disbanded," he added.

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