Country of the Forbidden and Being Squeezed in the Corner
Report of Violations Against the Freedom of Trade Unions
With 2016, the situation of Egyptian political forces and Civil Society Organizations is deteriorating within an increasingly complex environment considerably shrinking the public space and preventing any opportunities of social mobility, combined with an unprecedented economic crisis. When we examine the area of workers’ rights, it is easy to notice the difficulties faced by independent trade unions defied by the “official” General Federation of Trade Unions which is totally backed by the State agencies in an attempt to exert the State hegemony over the working class.
Therefore, independent trade unions are confronted with a central power headed by a government that acknowledges only the hierarchical structures, relying for this on an entirely dependent Federation ready to comply with all the requisites of the governmental agenda, including that of humiliating workers, denying the legacy of their claims and even violating their basic rights. On the other hand, the Egyptian Parliament is falling under the supremacy of a pro-governmental coalition endorsing all the decisions dictated by the State apparatus. Moreover, the parliamentarian commission of the labor force is under the control of men belonging to the formal Federation in order to counteract any attempts initiated by independent trade unions; the power of this commission is it has the authority to adopt the legislation proposed by the State, or even to shape more restrictive legislations against freedoms and workers’ rights. In addition, we refer to the interventions of security and intelligence forces that are always super ready to enforce judgments related to firing workers, imprisonment, including the practice of threats and forced disappearance.
The labor’s movement is also victim of the coercive attitudes of patrons towards their workers and the leadership of the labor’s movement. All this happens within an obvious weakness of the parties responsible of monitoring the status of workers and that of the labor market, reaching sometimes the extent of connivance with other forms of repression. This gives free hands to businessmen in practicing their power and even violating the terms of laws with no fear from punishment.
Close to the end of 2016, it is clear that the policies adopted by the State are in favor of safeguarding the existence of the General Federation as a useful tool to break the resistance of workers. This role is highly valued by the upper spheres and the representatives of the Federation are preciously kept in post regardless the many scandals of corruption they are involved in. As an illustration, Law 35/1976 about trade unions and endorsed by the Parliament last June is granting an important immunity to these representatives and allows them to pursue their role safely.
Furthermore, representatives of independent trade unions were removed from the Egyptian delegation participating in the World Conference of Workers held in Geneva during the month of June 2016. This represented another attack against the movement of independent trade unions that is actually the real representative of workers suffering from the violation of their rights.
The battle around the law of trade unions’ freedoms is still ongoing between a draft law presented by the government in the absence of any social debate including several contraventions of Egypt’s international commitments, and another draft law that was jointly developed and agreed upon by representatives of independent trade unions, thematic and geographic federations, as well as legal and economic experts.
Freedom of expression and of organizing are being systematically prohibited and represent a major label of the ruling force policies; this dead end horizon is not promising whatsoever and does not allow for an effective dialogue at the social level enabling to enhance the productivity and to open the door for improved means of human development. On the contrary, it looks rather like the last closed bastion, i.e. the corner where the player finds himself besieged.
Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services (CTUWS)
December 25, 2016
Our report monitors the events that occurred in 2016 including the violations of freedoms and rights on three levels that are:
The decisions and practices adopted by the State institutions show strong inclination towards the protection of the governmental General Federation in an attempt to impose this body over workers as the sole official entity representing them although it was in the past and remains quite far from workers’ concerns and rights. As a consequence, this Federation contributes in liquidating the independent trade unions that represent a threat to its privileges as they were born from the determination of workers and backed by the legacy pertaining to the clauses of 2014 Constitution as well as the international conventions ratified by Egypt.
However, the decisions, laws and court sentences emerging today represent a clear attack against the freedom of trade unions and an escalation of prior practices seeking to the same objective, i.e. refraining the impact of independent trade unions and putting obstacles before a real representation of workers’ claims.
The periodical note of the Cabinet issued on November 25 2015 is another obvious escalation against independent trade unions. The mentioned note includes evident directives for improved coordination between the official Federation and other concerned ministries that are requested to grant the Federation every needed support in achieving the legitimate benefits of workers in front of independent trade unions and the “provocative” elements that they include.
Although this strong refusal of dealing or acknowledging the existence of independent trade unions either on behalf of governmental bodies or businessmen is not a new fact, it is important to mention that the Cabinet’s note is adding another dimension to the situation by describing this abstention as a national and patriotic duty that should be adopted by every honest citizen.
Later on, the Ministry of Interior issued decree No. 6 in March 2016 to stop allowing stamps of registration to independent trade unions and definitely forbidding any contacts with these illegal entities. According to the same decree, the right to grant certifications of profession should be restricted to the Ministry of Labor and Migration, the General Authority of Social Security and the specialized trade unions approved by the General Federation of Trade Unions recognized by the State.
The nomination of Mohamad Saafan, vice president of the nominated board responsible of running the General Federation, comes as an extension of the fierce attacks against independent trade unions. Actually, the new minister is not only member of the General Federation Board; he is well known by his antagonist stands against the freedom of the trade unionist movement; moreover, he personally participated in reprisals against leaders from the independent movement in the field of petroleum when he was heading the official general trade union of workers in this field. Such reprisals took the form of arbitrary transfers as a consequence of legitimate demands raised by the trade union.
In addition, this nomination on top of the concerned Ministry responsible of drafting a law regulating the responsibilities and rights of trade unions is another indicator of the trend adopted by the State, i.e. aborting any attempts of workers from organizing themselves in entities expressing their real interests; actually, this was clearly translated in the draft law presented by the government.
We also note the presence of several important members of the General Federation in the Parliament and their hegemony over the commission of the labor force. The role playedby this commission is another form of empowerment to this trend as its members possess the authority of approving or rejecting laws that do not fit with their objectives as well as tailoring laws leading to the decrease of workers’ rights and/or to the diminution of their acquisitions, or even the postponement of laws that were hoped for by workers such as the law of social security and health security, or the amendment of Law 35/1976 that was recently approved by the Parliament although it is far from meeting the aspirations of workers.
The removal of independent trade unions’ representatives from the Egyptian delegation to the World Conference of Workers held in Geneva in June 2016 represents another steps in the series of actions perpetrated by the government against independent trade unions.
Intelligence services played also their role in implementing the governmental trend seeking to erase the emergence of an independent movement. Last year witnessed numerous cases of preventive detention as well as cases presented before military courts for several leaders of the movement whose only crime was to sit with the administration of their companies in order to negotiate the legitimate rights of workers.
On May 22 and 23 2016, the workers of the maritime shipyard organized a peaceful sit-in requesting that the government implements the decision of minimal wages. This decision was applied for only six months then arbitrarily stopped by the administration. Other demands included the revival of closed workshops, the provision of industrial safety measures, the implementation of a regular cycle of promotions, the review of the scale of production incentives, an increase in the grants of the religious feasts, and reimbursement by the company of its loan to the fund of workers directly fed by deduction from their salaries.
As usual, the administration didn’t take any measures, refusing to negotiate with workers and ignoring their demands. However, the latter informed the administration of their determination to pursue the peaceful movement of protest and their decision to occupy the company beginning next day (the 24th of May) until satisfactory solutions are reached.
On May 24, workers found themselves in front of closed doors and surrounded by the forces of the military police preventing anybody to enter in the company. These facts were documented in a process-verbal registered by workers at the police station of “Mina El Bassal” on May 25.
The company was closed and several employees arrested among whom were manual workers, administrative employees and engineers. They were deferred to a military court in Alexandria under caseNo. 2759/2016. The persons arrested include: Abdel Razek Morsi Abdel Razek, Mohamad Tawfik Al Moussa, Islam Zarif Abdel Aziz, Mohamad Bassiouni Ali, Ihab Sami Zaki, Ismail Mohamad Ismail, Moomen Mohamad Mimi, Samer Ibrahim, Mohamad Gouda Mohamad, Farouk El Sayed Ibrahim, Ali Ibrahim Ali, Karim Hemeda Sultan, Mohamad Mahmoud El Sayed, and Mohamed Morsi who surrendered on May 30. The remaining workers wanted for judgement are Mohamad Hassan Awad, Sheeban Gamal, Amr Hamdi El Shazli, Essam Ali Abdel Rahman Ali, Ahmad Rasmi Farag, El Sayed Yassin Gebril, Ahmad Morsi Abdel Razek, Mohamad Morsi Ramadan, Islam El Sayed Mahmoud, Mohamed Sheeban Mohamad, Ashraf Gad and Mohamad Adel, while the female worker Samar Abdou Hanafi was released against payment of a bail.
On the base of article 124 of the Penal Code, the prosecutor accused them “as public servants at Alexandria company of maritime shipyard annexed to the Authority of maritime industries and services at the Ministry of Defense of instigating their colleagues to abstain from work by calling for reunion and a sit-in of protest inside the company in order to obstruct and distract the work process with the purpose of achieving their demands included in the report of the security section of the company and enclosed with the investigations”.
Article 204 of 2014 Constitution mentions that the military judiciary is an independent judiciary solely responsible of judging all crimes related to the military forces, its officers and members, and crimes committed by members of the General National Security during (or as a consequence of) their service. It is not allowed to judge civilians before military courts except for crimes representing a direct aggression against military buildings or camps of the armed forces, military zones or those considered as border zones, or against its equipment, weapons, means of transportation, munitions, military secrets, public funds or military factories. Crimes judged before military courts include also those related to the process of mobilization as well as aggressions directly perpetrated against military officers or soldiers during the performance of their job.
Despite the fact that citizens are supposed to stand in front in their natural judge and the exception is to be deferred to military courts, the constitutional text enlarged the cases enabling these exceptions. Although we agree with 2014 Constitution, we remain reserved about including the military factories under this exception and it is important to mention here that CTUWS had presented on behalf of workers a memo to the Commission of Fifty which was in charge of developing the Constitution; the memo included specifically this reservation as to prevent any possibility of judging the workers in these factories when they practice their legitimate right of striking or peaceful assembly before military courts.
And this is what’s happening now as the prosecution considered that the peaceful protest of workers represented a direct aggression against one of the bodies mentioned in the Constitution while article 204 of the same Constitution does not refer to Alexandria maritime shipyard and strike or peaceful assembly could not be considered as a direct assault.
Whereas the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights refers to strike as a basic human right, Egypt’s endorsement of this Covenant was not translated into proper legal texts; this led the Supreme State Security Court to adopt a historical judgment in the case of railway workers’ strike of 1986 considering article 124 of the Penal Code automatically obsolete to have a legislation compatible with Egypt’s international commitments.
As the accusation against the workers of Alexandria maritime shipyard are related to article 124 mentioned above, these accusations should be considered nil because the said article should have been abolished long time ago.
Anyway, the case remained before the court, postponed from session to session while workers have been jailed on a preventive base for over five months until the 18th of October.
Thus, some workers remained in jail for five months and others escaping from arrest during the same period; all of these and their families were deprived from their sole source of earning; families and children punished and destitute from their basic needs. These are workers who did not commit any crime except if we consider the right to peaceful assembly included in the Constitution as a crime.
On October 18, 2016, the military court decided to release six of the workers and to postpone its decision concerning the remaining ones until November 7, 2016. As of the released workers, pressures were exerted few days before the court sentence to force them resigning from their post.
On the eve of September 24 2016, an anonymous security body arrested six workers at the Authority of Public Transports from their homes without bringing them to the prosecutor or charging them with any tangible accusation while families were unaware of the place of their detention.
These workers are: Tarek Mohamad Youssef Moustafa, Tarek Mohamed El Sayed Beheiri known as “Tarek El Beheiri”, Ayman Abdel Tawab Salem Mahmoud, Mohamed Hisham Farghali Soliman, Mohamad Abdel Khalek Awadallah, Ahmad Mahmoud Ahmad Mahmoud known as “Ahmad Soks”.
Families said that the process of arrest including the invasion of their houses occurred with no legal permission as officers refused to show them the prosecutor permission of inspection or of arrest. They were not even informed about the place of detention or the accusations charged against the workers noting that none of them is affiliated to a political party or partisan of a specific movement.
On September 25, CTUWS lawyer presented a notification to the General Prosecutor under number 12201 where he requested a prompt investigation about the event considered as a clear contravention to the Constitution and the Law.
Kamal Abbas - CTUWS general coordinator and member of the National Council for Human Rights – presented a note to the Council that requested explanations from the Ministry of Interior.
On September 28, CTUWS organized a press conference attended by the families of the arrested workers. Around ten days later, the six workers appeared before the State Security Attorney that decided to keep them in jail after charging them with three accusations: instigation of striking, instigating public servants to abstain from performing the duties of their job and affiliation to a prohibited entity.
The lawyers who attended the interrogation refuted these accusations referring to the non-existence of any proofs; they requested the immediate release of the six workers for absence of reasons justifying provisional detention as these workers are affiliated to a governmental firm, have a well-known place of residence and represent no threat for the public safety. They added that the accusation of belonging to a prohibited entity was only a fake and ridiculous accusation and an object of derision fo rboth their relatives and colleagues at work. Actually, these six workers are known from everybody especially that they have been active trade union leaders for several years.
The main crime imputed to these workers is that they sat with the administration of the Authority to discuss a series of legitimate demands among which the re-affiliation of the Authority of Transports to the Ministry of Transports instead being under the monitoring of Cairo governorate, the increase of the share of benefits for drivers from 13 to 17% in line with their colleagues in Alexandria, an allocation for nature of risks and contamination at work, and other incentives such as the right to full pay for public and official holidays.
After these negotiations took place, Madinet Nasr office of attorney received three complaints from the security supervisor in the Authority accusing the six workers to call for strike. The attorney listened to the security supervisor without interrogating the workers.
This was followed by the process of arrest described before .After being interrogated by the Supreme State Security office of attorney, they were jailed for fifteen days under investigation. On the next session of interrogation (October 17) they were charged of the three accusations mentioned above that were systematically refuted by the team of lawyers.
They appeared again for interrogation on October 19 and the decision of detention for fifteen days was renewed several times until Ahmad Mahmoud (known as “Soks) and Tarek Youssef were released while the four others remained in detention. On December, 5, the office of attorney decided to release Mohamad Hashem and Tarek El Beheiri and renewed the order of detention for the two others which was once again renewed for fifteen additional days on December, 19. A new session will take place on January 3, 2017 to examine whether or not the order of detention will be renewed.
The invasion of the syndicate of press by security forces on May 1st 2016 remains an unprecedented fact that exceeded all forms of violations as this was the first time a professional syndicate was invaded.
The syndicate was under siege for several hours during which the security services avoided to communicate with its board. Then, security forces invaded the syndicate in order to arrest journalists Amr Badr and Mahmoud El Sakka who took refuge in their syndicate to escape from the accusation of instigating for demonstration and overthrowing the ruling power.
This invasion was another step in the process of repressing freedoms and rights, especially that the syndicate of press is considered as one of the bastions of the Egyptian Civil Society with all its long history of support and solidarity with those seeking for their rights. Actually, the conference halls of the syndicate host the activities and public events that regular hotels were prevented to welcome. In addition, various types of protesters use the outside stairs of the building to peacefully express their demands.
However, the statement of the General Prosecutor mentioned that “the headquarters of the press syndicate is not exempted from the arrest of people who take them as a refuge against threats of accusations ”. The same statement insinuated that if the head of the syndicate board was aware of this accusation and accepted to give refuge, then this was considered a crime to be punished by law. And what happened actually is that the office of the General Attorney began an interrogation with Yehia Kallash, president of the board, together with two members of the board, Khaled El Balshi and Gamal Abdel Rehim, about this issue. Then the office decided to release the three men against a bail of 10,000 pounds for each one of them. However, the three journalists refused at the beginning to pay the bail considering that the accusations are related to the right to freedom of expression and publication, but the bail was paid later on.
On November 19, the big chock was the sentence of the court: two years of jail for the three board members under the accusation of giving refuge to the two young journalists while being aware that they were wanted by the authorities for investigation.
The general secretary, Dr. Mona Mina, was called for interrogation on December 3 by the office of the General Attorney on the base of her statement to the media that a colleague had informed her of directives from the Ministry of Health to reuse disposable syringes due to the penury of medical equipment.
The board of the syndicate indicated in a communique that Dr. Mina had good intentions in her statement which was part of a long TV interview discussing the problems encountered by the medical system in light of the current lack of many types of medicine and medical equipment.
Instead of examining these facts or the extent of sincerity, the General Attorney office decided to took its information from a communique issued by the Information Center of the Cabinet stating that the Ministry of Health never ordered such directives that are incompatible with the rules to prevent contamination. The General Secretary of the Syndicate was then accused of propagating false rumors aiming at disturbing the public stability and provoking fears among citizens. Her interrogation took place in the presence of the Syndicate’s lawyer as well as three other volunteer lawyers when she was confronted with her public statements to the media.
The prosecutor released Dr. Mina with a bail of one thousand pounds. Number of public figures and leaders in political parties as well as representatives of Civil Society organizations declared their solidarity with her, including the sub-branches of the syndicate of medical doctors.
It is worth remembering that Dr. Mona Mina is the founder of the movement called “Doctors without Rights” that fought during several years for the right of medical doctors under the reign of Mubarak and participated in the organization of doctors’ strikes in May 2011 and October 2012 calling for the improvement of salaries, providing safety measures for hospitals, and increasing the budget allocated to health. She also participated in the 25th of January revolution and is one of the prominent volunteers in the field hospital that was devoted to heal the wounds of protesters during this revolution.
During this last year, Law 61/2016 was approved by the Egyptian Parliament. This Law is an amendment to Law 35/1976 that regulates the status of trade unions until a new law will be enacted about the freedom of trade unions. Actually, the Parliament will have to examine two drafts, one belonging to the government and the other issued by representatives of the workers.
On July 19 2016, the Parliament approved the draft amendments to Law 35/1976 after several sessions that failed to obtain a valid vote due to the absenteeism of a majority of parliamentarians.
This draft law proposed by 88 members of the Parliament – including those in the commission of labor force – was promptly approved by the President of the Republic on July 26 of the same year and published in the Official Journal under Law 61/2016 including four articles:
These amendments show clearly the determination of the State to preserve the existence of the General Federation of Trade Unions as the sole official body representing workers; this comes on the account of the deprivation of workers from the right to create entities representing their interests despite the loss of the Federation for its legitimacy with the nullity of its elections including those of all its affiliated entities according to the judgment of the Constitutional Court No, 220 enacted during its 19th judicial year issued on April 1st 2012 in addition to hundreds of other judgments related to the nullity of these elections.
Actually, all the extensions that were granted to this cycle since 2012 under the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had a single objective, i.e. that of supporting the governmental body against the rise of independent trade unions.
Despite the flow of years and the changes that occurred at the ruling level before the 25th of January revolution through the rule of SCAF, that of Muslim Brothers, the transitory period headed by Counselor Adli Mansour, until the present period, the law about the freedom of trade unions remains one of the main demands of the workers’ movement without coming into light.
Under the pressures of the ILO that gave Egypt a respite of one year during the 105 cycle of its world conference of labor to enact a law for the freedom of trade unions based on the basic standards of work adopted internationally and to which the Egyptian State was committed, the present government has developed a draft law under the name “the law for trade unions and workers’ unions and the protection for the right of organizing” away from any effective societal dialogue where the real representatives of workers would be consulted. Nevertheless, the said law was approved by the Cabinet on its 37th session held July 4, 2016 in preparation to be submitted to the Parliament for voting.
Strangely enough, all the pressures mentioned above and the fears of the government to be placed on ILO black list, the proposed draft represents a dangerous backlash as it blows away the right of workers to freely establish their organizations, aiming at blocking any fresh air from independent trade unions and freezing any prior acquisitions for the workers’ movement. Moreover, it points out clearly to the idea of a unified trade union that was and remains a suffering for Egyptian workers.
Opposed to the governmental draft comes another draft that was born as a CTUWS initiative and endorsed by hundreds of workers members of independent trade unions, thematic and geographic federations as well as legal and economic experts besides individuals concerned with the status and rights of workers. The latter draft was jointly developed by all these parties and reflects the tangible and concrete reality experimented on the ground rather than the fake involvement of the General Federation members.
Our draft includes the basic standards of labor according to the international conventions, specifically Convention 87 of 1948, Convention 98 of 1949 as well as article 76 of the Egyptian Constitution.
In a roundtable organized by CTUWS on July 23rd 2016, a Declaration of Principles was issued about the legislative framework for workers’ trade unions and the criteria that should be biding in the new law. Participants in this meeting that included Dr. Ahmad El Borai, prior Minister of Labor in addition to several parliamentarians, agreed to submit the draft law to the Parliament. Actually, the draft law was endorsed and presented by 65 members of the Parliament to its President on July 27who handled it to the legislative commission and to the commission of labor force.
This is not the first attempt to pass on a fair law; since 2008, CTUWS has launched a campaign requesting the abolition of the legal restrictions on the right to freely establish trade unions leading to the development of a first draft law.
Several drafts were prepared following this initiative culminating in the declaration by Dr. El Borai on March 12 2011 (then Minister of Labor) of a statement about trade unions’ freedoms as a preparatory step towards the issuance of a law that raised the hopes of all workers. Therefore, a committee was composed to elaborate a draft that was widely discussed during the month of May in the same year. However, this draft was categorically refused by the General Federation and remained a mere embryo of law without never reaching the status of law.
Under the rule of the Muslim Brothers, and within a majority of their representatives in the Parliament, the draft law remained once again a dream for workers; instead of issuing the law known as “El Borai Law” that reached a consensus among workers, the Minister of Labor prepared a new draft law solely expressing the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies; the destiny of the draft elaborated by workers remains unchanged until today as the same scenario was repeated under the consecutive compositions of the government, i.e. the creation of successive commissions to draft a new alternative law.
It is true that the 2014 Constitution has granted the Parliament important authorities, including the right to dismiss the President of the Republic or to grant/ withdraw its trust to the Prime Minister. These authorities are based on the concept that – as representative of the people - the Parliament should possess the legislative power independently from the government. However, the reality is quite different; actually, there is a coalition composed of political parties and independent individuals all supportive to the ruling regime and its government and calling itself the coalition “In Support of Egypt”; if we add to this the hegemony of the official Federation representatives over the commission of labor force, it is easy to imagine how the situation would be.
The complicity between the Parliament and the government’s interests is obvious through the series of repressive laws passed through the past few months without any involvement of the public opinion. Such laws are one-track aligned and lack any constitutional legacy besides their incompatibility with the international standards. Consequently, they are unable to achieve social equilibrium or stability. Some of the latest achievements of this trend are the enactment of a Law hugely shrinking the space of Civil Society organizations and the submission of parliamentarian Mohamad Anouar El Sadate to investigation after being accused by the Minister of Social Solidarity of leaking this Law to the outside world. In a statement to Al Ahram newspaper, the member of the Parliament denied this accusation and declared that the draft Law had not even reached the Parliament before its submission for voting. Two days later, the Law was promptly approved by the coalition representing a majority in the Parliament.
It also appears clearly that both the government and the Parliament consider draft laws as a military secret that should not be public either inside or outside the country before they are duly approved by the Parliament.
It is worth mentioning that Mr. El Sadate had participated in a meeting organized by CTUWS with the huge presence of independent trade unions and federations’ representatives, political parties and human rights organizations; the draft Law about the freedom of trade unions was discussed and participants agreed on its full compatibility with the Constitution and the international standards of human rights and freedoms as well as its importance to achieve the social stability. Under this perspective, the parliamentarian adopted the draft Law and succeeded to collect the signatures of 65 other parliamentarians who submitted the draft to the Parliament as an alternative to the governmental one. In the meantime, the campaign in favor of the draft adopted by independent trade unions moved intensively all over the governorates of the country to explain the dangers pertaining to the governmental draft threatening the efforts of workers to attain their legitimate rights by all democratic and peaceful means and according to the clauses of the Constitution.
However, this seemed to be annoying to the government and to the members of the parliamentarian commission on the labor force; therefore, many attempts occurred to dismantle the campaign including the organization of meetings with some leaders of independent trade unions under the pretext of willing to reach a consensus about some amendments to be introduced to the governmental draft law. On the other hand, the repressive measures were ongoing by punishing the parliamentarian who dared to show sympathy with the workers’ aspirations.
All this happens while we are expecting to witness the enactment of new oppressive laws against workers’ rights such as a new Labor Law and a Law about Social and Health Security.
Workers and trade unions’ leaders are constantly seeking through legitimate channels to secure the basic rights of their peers as well as improving their working environment; these channels include the submission of motions, engaging in negotiations, concluding agreements or going on strike; however, clashes occur between them and patrons (either governmental, local or foreign businessmen) who do not hesitate to inflict harsh punishments against these claims for basic rights, such as fair remuneration, or the right to health coverage.
In all cases it is the workers who pay the price; they are subject to interrogation, pressured to withdraw their demands or stop the strikes and sit-in without any response in return. When these pressures are met with refusal, workers are often arbitrary dismissed from their jobs or submitted to formal investigation on the base of complaints against them.
During the past few months, the report has observed 271 case or arbitrary dismissal, the discharge of 900 workers, trials against 66 including thirty leaders of the workers’ movement; such are the tools used by patrons to exert pressure on workers, terrify them and in the same time prevent their leaders playing their role.
The behavior observed by Kom Hamada Factory for Weaving and Spinning management has pushed over 800 workers to go into a collective hunger strike on June 9 2016 that led to a health deterioration for one hundred of them who were transferred to the hospital. The strike came in reaction to the repressive reaction of the company towards their peaceful demands: granting workers who served for over ten years in the company ten additional days of holidays and approving a 7% increase for holders of diplomas. The answer to these requests came under the form of a group from the police station assaulting worker “Mohamad Fawzi” while leaving the factory at the end of his shift and trailing him along on the ground in front of his colleagues. Moreover, a complaint was filed against the worker accusing him of instigating for strike, provoking retardation in work and pushing other workers to organize a barricade in the road. The office of attorney released him with a bail of 5000 pounds. Workers expressed their solidarity with him and went into strike for the first time. However, the factory’s administration did not content itself to refuse their demands but also closed the factory for ten unpaid days after which seventeen workers were submitted to interrogation under the accusation of instigation for strike. This required a new escalation of protests where three shifts of workers entered into a hunger strike surrounded by attempts of calming the situation on behalf of Beheira governor and some members of the parliament.
Under the policies of sieging observed by the Egyptian government against independent trade unions, the administration of Upper Egypt Company for Transport and Tourism issued a decree on June 20 2016 for the immediate transfer of the trade union vice president Ahmad Galal from the Naga Hammadi branch to Qena branch without explanation of the reasons. Such a decision is considered a violation of international conventions guaranteeing the legal protection of trade union members from the punishment measures adopted by patrons and governmental administrations; it goes also against the judgment of the High Constitutional Court referring to the irregularity of transferring the member of a trade union board either inside or outside the town where his post is due during the cycle of the board without his written consent.
The first session of the court for the trial of 22 workers from Titan Factory of Cement took place in Alexandria of June 28under the case that begun three years earlier against the president of the independent trade union and 21 of his colleagues. The accusations raised by the prosecutor included the hold-up of a business woman and an Indian delegate member, the obstruction of investments, the attempt to burn and destroy public properties, and a demonstration of strength in front of the factory’s board. These accusations followed a strike of the workers against the decision of the factory abstaining from paying their due incentives and using these instead as investments for the company.
The tribunal considered the workers innocent, however could we see this judgment as a sufficient and fair judgment after all the years of suffering during the course of the trial?
The Arab-Swiss Company (Assik) issued a decree on July 11 without prior notice informing by mail 74 workers that they were dispensed from work due to the financial crisis encountered by the firm.
When the dismissed workers went to the administration in order to get acquainted with the reasons behind this decision, the legal advisor of the Company, Mahmoud Abdel Khalek, informed them that the decision would enter into effect beginning August 1st and that they had no right to oppose it; he also argued that some of them were sitting at home and taking salaries for doing nothing and he added “if you don’t like it, you can go to the court”. Moreover, he categorically refused to discuss their financial dues.
The fired workers were affiliated to the department of maintenance that was created in 2014 and has the responsibility of moving to any setting of the company in need for services. These workers went to the labor office where they filed a complaint against the administration that terminated their contracts without prior notice or certified reasons, insisting on the fact that their contracts included a clause guaranteeing their rights according to Law 79/1975 about Social Security and the Labor Law 12/2013.
Therefore, one of the huge industrial entities in the field of cement and engineering in the Middle East has engaged a fight with its workers whose years of service range from ten to twenty years with some of them reaching their fifties, or are suffering from work damages and chronic diseases due to their constant exposure to the dust of cement and the heat of high ovens.
Confronted to this attitude, the dismissed workers resorted to the general administration of work relations and collective negotiations affiliated to the Ministry of Labor. After several sessions leading to the failure of reaching an agreement, the recommendation of the Ministry to the workers was to pursue their complaints and go to the labor court.
The workers of Egypt International for Ceramics (amounting to 1500) in the industrial zone of Qwesna (governorate of Menoufia) went on strike to protest against the refusal of the administration to grant them a meal, compensation against risks, take in charge the workers affected with acute health problems as a consequence of their work, and to define the percentage of their share in the benefits achieved by the company according to articles 40 and 41 of the Law of Companies. In addition, their complaint was about the deteriorated level of their salaries where workers who had spent over twenty years at work did not exceed 2000 pounds per month.
In response to the strike, the company fired 52 workers without any form of investigation; it had previously fired a hundred workers and returned them back on the base of new contracts as well as it obliged them to sign statements allowing the company to dismiss them without obtaining any rights.
Beginning of August, the general director and Fayek El Kasrawi owner of the company, promised the workers to meet their requests and the company returned back to production in full capacity until the 10th of August when the workers went again on strike after the administration begun to retaliate and threaten them of firing, totally withdrawing all its promises. On August 18, twelve workers went on a hunger strike.
On September 20, the strike was stopped and workers returned back to working; however, the company owner insisted on firing ten workers as the presumable instigators of the strike despite his prior promises of abstaining from taking such measure. Two hours after resuming work, workers went on strike for the third time as a protest against this last measure.
The administration of this website informed its journalists and workers with the decision of getting rid of 85 journalists from various departments without prior notice or giving legal or professional reasons.
On July 19, the decision was communicated verbally to the concerned workers during their working hours, and they were requested to leave their equipment on the spot. They were also informed that the administration was unable to give their dues for the month of June that would be paid in two installments.
The website was bought by businessman Ahmad Abou Hashima at the beginning of June after the previous owner had difficulties to pay the salaries of his employees. Abou Hashima first decision was to fire number of journalists in order to compress the expenses; accordingly, the dismissed ones were told that they would be only paid for the period until the 19th of July, i.e. for the actual days of work.
The journalists dispensed issued a communique where they declared having filed collective complaints at the labor office of Dokki as well a process-verbal number 4800 at the police station of the same district against businessmen Ahmad Abou Hashima and Yasser Selim in their capacity as website owners as well as against Rasha El Shami, chief editor of the site. Furthermore, they presented a complaint to the board president of the syndicate of press and decided to go into an open sit-in until they enter in possession of their dues.
The administration of Africa Company for Silos in Alexandria decided to dispense 200 workers from the department of services without giving them their financial dues after having determined to close this department. Dismissed workers were informed that the Company would stop its activities by July 30 and consequently close the department.
The administration was able to obtain many signatures of workers (some of them illiterate) stating that they have obtained all their financial dues after having been promised that they would be transferred at El Nakhil Company for Transport. As of the workers who refused to sign, they were prevented from entering in the company and the administration stopped the payment of their salaries for the month of July.
It is worth noting that this is not the first time a company fires number of workers without giving them their dues.
The administration board of Ceramica Cleopatra Company in Suez decided on August 2 to dismiss nine workers members of the trade union board; they also ordered to remove their names from lists of workers in the Company.
The decision is a retaliation against these trade union members who refused to withdraw a demand requesting the implementation of the items included in a collective negotiation lasting since 2012 about the rights of workers in benefits achieved by the company, allocations for work risks and meals, as well as other incentives; they also refused to abolish the delegation of authority to a lawyer signed by 5400 workers. In addition, the administration filed several complaints accusing the board members of the trade union of destruction and obstruction of work and declared to the attorney that the Company loses five millions of pounds for every unproductive hour.
This Company responsible of monitoring goods and of providing manpower to another company decided to arbitrary dismiss fifty workers. This occurred after a meeting between employees and the head of the Company during the month of August where impossible tasks were proposed to the workers. The other two alternatives were either to obtain one month salary and leave work, or to be transferred to El Qatameya branch in Cairo at the full expense of the workers who refused this offer.
Workers filed two complaints in police stations of Alexandria to prove the case.
The Company fired the treasurer of the trade union of workers in the warehouse of fuel located in the district of Mex (Alexandria); this unprecedented arbitrary measure is one of a series against the members of the trade union that had filed a complaint to the general prosecutor about the forms of corruption related to the sales of solar and oils, in addition to a complaint from the dismissed employee revealing other facts of corruption.
The original intention of the Company might have been to get rid from all the trade union board, or an attempt to scare them. In all cases, it is obvious that the trade union is the real target of this measure especially after it succeeded to abolish the auxiliary of workers to the company exporting manpower and obtain new work contracts guaranteeing their rights according to the Labor Law by virtue of the agreement reached in the collective negotiation that took place in 2012 and was later on violated by the Company.
The 800 hundreds workers of this Company went on their ninth day of strike in August 31st when the Company’s president of the board, Hakim Lamei, filed number of complaints against them at the police station accusing several workers to distribute tracts and instigating for strike.
After presenting a note including their demands, the workers were surprised by a police force coming at the workplace upon request of the administration; however, the peaceful nature of the strike was duly registered, the protection of machines by workers, as well as the distribution of workers into three shifts in a way that the sit-in would include 200 workers each time.
Due to the refusal of the administration to engage in negotiation, workers filed a formal complaint at the labor office that documented the legitimacy of their requests including a revision of their share in the benefits of 2015 and 2016 to the amount of 2600 pounds for each worker as well as the percentage of annual increase to reach 15%, the readjustment of meal compensation from 150 to 300 pounds, and an incentive of production.
Five workers at Torah Cement Factory were falsely accused and deferred consequently to the office of attorney for inquiry; they were charged a bail together with an attempt of the Factory’s lawyer to force them resigning from work against withdrawal of the complaint.
The five workers were deferred to the office of attorney in the district of Maadi for inquiry in the trial number 6082/2016 under the accusation of instigation to strike and obstruction of production filed by the lawyer and the contractor of manpower.
These workers are Mohamad Fathi Abdel Rahman, Mohamad Fathi Abdel Meguid, Nasser Mahmoud Sayed, Mohamad Mohamad Moustafa and Mohamad Khaled Gamal Mahmoud.
The workers of the Factory had organized a sit-in to request the implementation of a judgment in their favor issued on May 8 under case number 20/2015 stating their right for the improvement of the provided health services, a restructuration of salaries, and the right for proper work contract with the Factory. These are the basic rights considered as punishable when workers claim for their implementation especially that they come on the base of a court decision.
The inquiry ended by the release of the five workers against a bail of 1000 pounds for each one when it appeared that the accusation were false after the testimony of the contractor who failed to recognize the workers or even their names and was apparently seeking to deny any relationship with the strike.
Around 700 workers of Moquette Mac Group for Carpets and Textiles went on a sit-in the first day after the feast holidays in the 10th of Ramadan City in front of the headquarters of the Company after they were all prevented from entering into the factory and several workers suspended from work.
Actually, the sit-in had already begun few days before holidays as a consequence of the dismissal of workers by the president of the board’s Group in three factories that were closed under the supervision of the security personnel of the British University affiliated to this man. After holidays and with the escalation of the situation following the prevention of workers from entering, the latter filed complaints at the police station and went into an open sit-in in addition to another sit-in in front of the Ministry of Labor on September 19.
After the summoning of Mohamad Hassan Ibrahim Tolba, supervisor of the fuel’s warehouse courtyard in Mex for inquiry at the company about the proceedings taken by number of workers on September 25 against Exon-Mobil president of the board and IBS Company for the provision of manpower, the man was forbidden to enter at his workplace and suspended from work for two months. As the decision was not detailed, it seems it was mainly addressed to terrify the other workers.
The Borg El Arab police station detained three workers from Faragallah Company for Food Industries on the 9th of October following a complaint filed against them by the administration accusing them of incitement to demonstration after they have organized with other colleagues from the garage a sit-in requesting a readjustment of their salaries in line with the other workers in the Company. Workers were then deferred to the office of attorney that decided to release them the next day.
The branch of the Company in the 10th of Ramadan City decided to arbitrarily transfer three of its workers to other branches in Benha and Giza. We note that one of them is board member of the trade union, and the three of them were apparently punished for their participation in a sit-in against the maneuvers of the Company to escape from fulfilling workers’ requests.
According to the decision mentioned earlier, Ramadan Fahmi and Tarek Gomaa were transferred to the Giza branch while Karim Eddine Fathi went to Banha branch.
Furthermore, the Company begun to use the system of retaliation and punishment against those affiliated to the trade union. Actually, a sit-in was organized by workers on October 12 to protest against the negative attitude of the Company towards their demands after an agreement was concluded between the two parties last July and the labor office of the district had set another round of negotiation during the first week of November to begin implementing the agreements.
In the same Company some twenty drivers presented a complaint to the labor office of their district against the illegal measures imposed by the Company that forces them to work extra hours as production workers besides their basic job as drivers. As a response, the Company abolished all their dues of overtime for the month of October, i.e. the equivalent of six days of salary, leading these workers to file another complaint at the same labor office on October 30. Actually, the pressures on these drivers are quite high as cuts could reduce their salaries up to 800 pounds per month which is an unviable and unfair situation in light of the current rates of inflation and with regards to their abstention from resorting to any kind of strike.
Tarek Mohamad Mirghani, pedagogic instructor at the general headquarters of the Ministry of Education, went into a sit-in on October 31st protesting against the unfair decision of ending his assignment and requesting justice and equal treatment with his colleagues regarding the situation of his family and children who are studying at Zweil University and at the Faculty of Pharmacy. In addition, he referred to the financial damages resulting from the sudden undetailed decision of ending his assignment without sufficient prior notice enabling him to reorganize his life.
Tarek had presented a supplication to the office of the Minister; however, when he received no answer, he submitted a detailed resignation at the office of service for citizens affiliated to the Ministry; he also sent a letter explaining the discrimination and injustice we was suffering from the general director of book affairs who used to degrade his reports of performance, a complaint that was found appropriate in the findings resulting from the investigation.
It is worth mentioning that Tarek had previously revealed acts of corruption that were never taken into consideration. As a consequence, he addressed a letter to the Ministry of Interior by email especially that he was threatened to be thrown outside the building by security forces.
Several journalists from this newspaper went on a sit-in at its headquarters in Cairo on November 28 to request the administration fulfilling its promises of reintegrating within two weeks the journalists that were transferred to Alexandria.
In a communique, the journalists reclaimed a prompt solution to the situation as well as the approval of all annual increases for the journalists who were punished for their solidarity with colleagues.
Sits-in took place at the headquarters of the newspaper as well as on the stairs on the syndicate of press with banners calling “No for the arbitrary firing of Masri El Youm journalists” and other slogans related to their legitimate claims.
The board of the syndicate of press issued a solidarity statement with these journalists who spent over one month and a half in Alexandria in contradiction with the agreement concluded between the syndicate and the newspaper’s administration mentioning that the duration of transfer would not exceed two weeks.
After engaging in negotiations with the boards of Apic and El Masria Company for Fertilizers around a series of financial demands including that of keeping their salaries as is and accounting them according to the current exchange rate of dollars, workers did not receive any response from both boards that even did not try to enter in a new round of negotiations. On the contrary, they filed a complaint to the office of the general attorney accusing workers of instigation to strike and obstruction of work. As a result, the Suez office of attorney decided to detain two workers for four days and renewed the decision on December 4 to be extended to fifteen days of preventive detention.
After the strike organized by the workers of the Factory in the county town of Etsa requesting their dues of the annual benefits, a raise of salaries, a regular employment of temporary workers and the removal of all those who reached the age of pension, the administration of the Factory filed a complaint at the office of attorney against three workers accused of instigation to strike and obstruction of work. The office of attorney decided to detain the three workers and present them on December 17 to the judge of appeals at Etsa court in the governorate of Fayoum who released them against the guarantee of their place of residence,
However, the workers declared their intention to pursue the strike requesting the dismissal of the Factory’s administrative manager described as a corrupted person spending his time in propagating lies and false information. They also condemned the governor of Fayoum intervention in favor of the administration of the Factory.
Once the Company presented a complaint against one of its workers called Tamer El Shahabi at the attorney office of south Giza as a result of his presumed writings in one of the social media sites, the attorney office decided on December 20 to detain the man for four days on the account of the investigations under court case number 15997/2016. The accusations included mainly slanders against the Company and its prior head of the board, instigating workers to strike, and launching false rumors.
The defense presented documents duly stamped in 2014 by the real estate registration office that the accused had nothing to do with the account presumed to be his in the social media as was equally confirmed by the investigation of the Ministry of Interior.
Types of retaliation
Number of workers
Number of trade union members
Judgments of imprisonment
Interrogation by the prosecutor
Firing for closure
Africa Company for Silos
Moquette Mac Group
Suspension from work
Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services (CTUWS)
December 25, 2016