Parliament has approved on Tuesday the government-drafted Labour Syndicates Law, after months of heated debates about its articles, which was seen as an attempt to control syndicalist work and absorb it into the framework of the state.
The executive regulations of the law are still to be issued. Ninety days after its issuance, elections will take place to select representatives, the first to take place since 2005, after years of unregulated syndicalist work.
Article 12 of the law stipulates that at least 100 workers are needed to establish a syndicate, and 2 syndicates with 30,000 members in total to form a general syndicate, 10 syndicates with 300,000 members in total in order to establish a general federation, something labour groups see as a challenge that makes the work of trade unions more difficult.
Articles number 20 and 21 give the management of a company or factory the right to refer a syndicate to court, which was labour sources cited to Daily News Egypt as a method to “target syndicates opening the door to mangers and capital owners to punish them whenever they want.”
The law only acknowledges the associations within the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), with no regard whatsoever for the independent ones, the source who works in an independent syndicate told Daily News Egypt on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorised to speak to the press, adding that they mainly aim to silence workers and deny them their right to choose their representatives.
Article 26 was criticised for allowing individuals over 60 to be members, something independent labour activists cite as a measure tailored by government-affiliated syndicalist bodies, which includes elderly bureaucrats. Also, article 54 was criticised as it bans receiving any funds or support from foreign personnel or institutions, inside or outside Egypt. This was criticised for putting restrictions on “international solidarity” among labour organisations.
The trade unions law has been a matter of ongoing discussion between legislative and executive authorities on one side, and labour unionists on the other since the 2011 uprising. The discussions resulted in the introduction of numerous draft laws and bills to replace Law No. 35 of 1976 and its amendments.