CTUWS Hosts A Delegation of the Trade Union Federation of Italy
CTUWS received on Tuesday the 4th of February 2020, in its office in Cairo, a delegation of the Italian Labour Union (UIL). The delegation was comprised of Anna Rea, Diana Tobita, and Dr. Essa Eskander, members of the International Department of UIL. This visit aims at understanding the experience of CTUWS, the conditions of independent unions, and the obstacles they face.
The meeting started with welcoming the members of the delegation by Kamal Abbas, the General Coordinator of CTUWS. He pointed out that this visit is a great chance for understanding the realities of workers’ life in Italy by listening and discussing with members of the delegation (Diana, Anna, and Essa) who are members in the International Department of the Federation. He confirmed that there is a common ground between us and the UIL on upholding the right of Palestinians to establish their own independent state, and rejecting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, which is something we highly appreciate. He also pointed out that UIL had an important role in supporting legal migration as an alternative to illegal migration.
Anna, member of the International Department of the UIL, started with expressing her happiness to be present among this special group of unionists. She pointed out that the UIL stands with workers rights everywhere on the two sides of the Mediterranean including the right to fair wages, and comprehensive and fair social insurance. She also pointed out that the UIL takes a clear stance regarding the actions of the Italian government to close ports in front of migrants and refuse receiving them based on the belief in the right of workers to improve their social and economic conditions. She also pointed out that the UIL is one of the largest federations of Italian labour unions with a huge number of members and affiliates. Next May, It will be 70 years old. It exists in most sectors of the labour force. It is mainly concerned with workers rights to decent living. It went through several struggles so that Italian workers enjoy freedom, free education and free medical care. She affirmed that we continue to need mutual solidarity and support to attain labour rights. She confirmed that they continuously follow up the situation of trade unions in Egypt, and the repercussions of the issuance of the new Trade Unions Law. They are waiting to see its implementation in real life so that it bears its anticipated fruits on the establishment of unions, and enabling unions to perform their roles role in the improvement of working conditions.
Participants in the room starting posing remarks and questions regarding the conditions of irregular workers, their rights to social insurance and health insurance in Italy, as well as the Italian experience of trade union pluralism, and how it enriched the trade union movement.
Questions also tackled matters of the privatization of companies owed by the state and selling them to the private sector, and the role of unions in this regard. Participants also asked how employers deal with trade union pluralism at the enterprise-level, as well as the role of women in Italian trade union movement.
Other questions included:
What is the legislation based on which trade unions are created in Italy?
How can we have forms of cooperation between the Italian federation and Egyptian independent labour unions which are the bases for building true unionism in Egypt since long years?
What about capitalist policies creating a huge class gap in the world as a whole? Do you have the same danger? What is the role of the UIL in confronting right-wing forces which are spreading throughout Europe and rejecting that workers from other nationalities work in Italy?
How do the UIL deals with cases of dismissal and abuse of workers? What are the forms of support that it provides to workers and unions in multinational corporations?
What is the role of the UIL in the discussion of social legislations related to workers before they are issued? Do Italian workers lose four fifths of their wages on retirement?
In her answers, Anna affirmed that it is necessary to have a strong federation to which workers belong so that it stands for their rights. She also said that having legislations that protect unionists and workers is a first step to real trade unionism. She also pointed out that there are irregular workers in Italy especially in the sector of agriculture. The rights of these workers are limited but they continuously try to help them attain their full rights. She affirmed that dialogue is necessary between unionists ad governments in order to achieve the rights of irregular workers. She pointed out that the highest rate of occupational injuries take place in this sector. Following dialogue and negotiations with our government, we managed to make tightening penalties on employers who employ irregular workers, and transforming them into regular workers.
Regarding privatization, the iron and steel factory - in which there are 40,000 workers - was privatized amid promises to save workers’ jobs. However, this changed following the sale. So, we had to launch great struggles for preserving the rights of workers.
Anna stated that the UIL always pays attention to issues of working women, training and development, and roles of unions in economic crises. Unions play an important role in cases of laying out workers in cases of crises by giving those who are above 50 years old 24 months as compensation, and 12 months for those who are younger with a government guarantee and transformative training so that their chances to find another job is higher.
Regarding dealing with employers, the rule is that there must be strong unions that can raise their demands and attain the rights of their workers and members. If there is imbalance of power, the powerful will rule. So, it is very important to have strong unions to defend the rights of works. There is trade union pluralism. However, there are always attacks on unions and federations to minimize their role. However, we managed to confront all attempts to dismantle the Union with continuous struggle. Regarding retirement conditions in Italy, when workers retire they merely lose 20% of their pre-retirement wages.
She confirmed that there is a unified labour law that regulates labour relations between workers and employers in all sectors. The UIL has no political role in order to guarantee its independence. However, there are political parties that support unions based on their platforms.
Diana Tobita, member of the International Department of the UIL, concluded the meetings with applauding the role played by CTUWS and Egyptian independent trade unions in the unionist movement. She expressed her happiness with coming to Cairo and meeting different unionist leaders.
The meeting was attended by more than 70 unionists from the Union of Workers in Telecom Egypt, the Unions of Workers in Real Estate Taxation Authority, the Union of Workers in the General Authority of Adult Education, the Union of Fishermen, the Union of Workers in University Hostels, the Union of Workers in the Law School of Ain Shams University, the Independent Union of Drivers, the Union of Workers in leoni Company, the Union of Workers in Mondelez Egypt, the Union of Workers in Nile Linen Group Company, the Union of Workers in Al-Mahala for Textile, and the Union of Workers in Tanta Flax, as well as representatives of Labour Bureau of political parties.