In the latest cabinet change “Mohamed Saafan” the head of the general union for petroleum workers and the vice president of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation “ETUF” was made minister of labor. This is considered a big step backwards since the appointment of a minister from the governmental union was always objected to by the Egyptian labour movement that saw this as clear evidence of the lack of independence of the governmental union and an assertion of its subordination to authorities.
The onset of the January 25 revolution ended this connection and today with the appointment of Mohamed Saafan, the ruling authorities assert its return to Mubarak’s laws and methods in governing.
This step is not separate from the war that the authorities launch against labour freedoms. At the same time that the authorities and serving one blow after the next to independent unions, it strengthens the governmental union and solidifies it as a union related arm in authority.
It was therefore natural that the appointment of Saafan as a minister of labour will generate a state of anger in the ranks of the democratic forces, not only because his appointment is a big step backwards but also for the man’s positions against labour freedoms that were evident in his previous declarations.
In a declaration by him to the Arab Workers’ Press Agency on January 2, 2016 he said “Independent unions are one of the foreign plans to deconstruct Egypt to smaller entities. Independent unions are part of this plan. In another vision, when we have 5 unions in each company, with whom should the administration deal? And when there is a competition between the union and the administration work collapses and when work collapses the economic institution collapses and this is a plan for the collapse of Egyptian economy that we completely refuse).
On January 11, 2016, on Misr Al Arabia website, the workers of Petrotrade for Commercial Services said that Mohamed Saafan the head of the general union for Petroleum workers does not represent them because his term in the union has ended more than five years previously and they asserted that their strike is labour related and is not directed by any foreign parties or political affiliations.
The workers asserted that what has been written in the statement issued by the petroleum worker’ union is “a bunch of lies” that have no base. They said that their strike is legal according to the Egyptian constitution, the labour law and the eighth article of the international convention for economic and social rights.
They explained that the strike is labour related and not directed or backed by any foreign parties. Some workers even raised pictures of President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi asking him to save them from the injustice they were subjected to inside the company.
The Workers wondered about the “role that the petroleum workers union plays. And how much are the salaries of its board including incentives and compensations?” They challenged Safaan to publish the items of his salary that amount to tens of thousands at a time when the state budget is experiencing great financial difficulties.
The striking workers in Petrotrade asked officials, foremost among which is the president and the minister of Petroleum to solve their problems and face the fact that there are real problems instead of using ready accusations of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood or other political parties according to the statement.
The general union of petroleum workers had said that there is a plan by many parties working according to special agendas and aiming to bring down the state through instigating the workers in Petrotrade. This led to an escalation and continuation of the crisis.
Who is Safaan?
According to Al Youm Al Sabaa on March 23, 2016 “Safaan” became the head of the general union of petroleum workers by an administrative decree after Sherif Ismael was appointed minister of petroleum after the June 30th revolution. He continued in his position until he became the minister of labour. He has a BA in commerce from Ain Shams University Mohamed Safaan’s name rose to prominence lately in the crisis of the union committee in Enpi for Petroleum when he issued a decree freezing its activities only one day after he issued a decree establishing it.