A decision by the Ministry of Manpower and Immigration to freeze the bank account of the Egyptian Democratic Labour Union (EDLU) has sparked criticism from different labour organisations.
The Centre for Trade Unions and Workers’ Services (CTUWS) condemned the ministry’s decision in a statement released on Wednesday. The centre expressed “shock and frustration” with the decision, adding that it contradicts “basic human rights” and conventions addressing unions’ freedoms ratified by the government.
The Ministry of Manpower’s decision, issued last Thursday, followed the membership freeze of EDLU head Yosri Maarouf following a vote of no confidence against him by the union’s general council for committing administrative violations. Saad Shaaban was then appointed as a caretaker head until the union’s general assembly is able to review the council’s decision.
Salah Al-Ansary, a member of the union’s advisory committee, said Maarouf had taken several decisions independently instead of consulting the general council. Such decisions included the acceptance of foreign aid.
As per the group’s bylaws, the EDLU’s general council notified the ministry with its decision pending its ratification. The ministry initially ratified the decision on 28 January and sent an official letter to Banque Misr urging them to adopt the signature of Shaaban instead of Maarouf’s in documents concerning the EDLU. Two days later, the ministry sent another letter to the bank ordering the freeze of the union’s account “due to the existence of differences and rifts within the EDLU”. The ministry added in its letter that the account would be frozen until the union’s general assembly is held.
Al-Ansary said that the general assembly is annually held in April. He added that freezing the union’s financial activities translates into freezing their administrative activities.
The CTUWS described the ministry’s decision as“churlish assault” on the principle of trade unions’ independence. Al-Ansary added that the ministry does not have the jurisdiction to reject the general council’s decision.
The EDLU filed on Tuesday to different trade unions worldwide a memorandum protesting the ministry’s interference in unions’ affairs. They also sent the International Labour Organisation a file detailing the ministry’s “interference” in Egypt’s union affairs.
Mostafa Rostum, head of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation’s (ETUF) International Relations Administration, said that the ministry’s decision contradicts international laws and norms. He described the decision as “flagrant interference” in the trade union movement.
Minister of Manpower Kamal Abu Eita stirred controversy in January after he dissolved the ETUF’s board. The minister’s decision unseated chairman Abdel Fattah Ibrahim and replaced him with his predecessor, Gebali Al-Maraghy.
Despite Ibrahim’s refusal of the decision, Abu Eita notified the Central Bank to cease conducting transactions involving the former chairman or his treasurer Abdel Moneim Al-Gamal.