By Tim Nanns
During the Labour Day celebrations on Monday at Cairo’s Police Academy, the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) presented President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi with a workers ‘code of conduct’. The code says the ETUF refuses strikes, and instead commit itself to “dialogue with the government and business owners as a mechanism to achieve social justice”.
The ETUF also categorically rejected the “politicisation of trade union work” though it praised President Al-Sisi’s work several times in its statement issued on its official website. Chairman Gebali Al-Maraghy also stated “appreciation and pride for your role in the national leadership of [guiding] the ship of Egypt to safety”, while addressing Al-Sisi.
The statement further emphasised the “Egyptian Trade Union Federation remains the sole legitimate representative of all Egyptian workers”, defying the role of smaller rivalling unions.
President Al-Sisi stated during his speech that it would take the country “two years in order to get back up”. He stressed, however, the measures taken by the government to provide jobs and education, highlighting education in the IT sector.
Hamdy Hussein of the Egyptian Communist Party told Daily News Egypt that the ETUF “will do nothing to disturb the interests of the businessmen”. Hussein added that the ETUF had “no legitimacy to start or stop strikes”, while they were known to “report the workers who initiate strikes”. He also reiterated earlier calls by workers to “dissolve the federation and elect a new body”.
The “fight against terrorism” also found its way into the Labour Day celebrations, with the Union’s chairman expressing “the joy will be complete when the Egyptian economy is recovering and all criminal cells targeting the security and stability of Egypt are eliminated”. Al-Sisi also stressed that “people of all denominations have an important role to participate in this task [confronting terrorism]”.
The ETUF, known under ousted president Hosni Mubarak as a government vehicle, recently participated in the draft of a new labour law, severely restricting the circumstances during which strikes are allowed. The ETUF’s Secretary General Mohammed Wahballah told state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram that workers should carry out negotiations with managers, the syndicate and the ETUF before going on strike.
The draft of the new labour law was confirmed on Monday during the celebrations by Minister of Manpower and Immigration Dr Nahed Al-Ashry, who also stressed the efforts the government was making to create jobs, claiming they had “contributed significantly to the reduction of unemployment”.