Directives from Unknown Sources Prevent Workers
From Establishing Trade Unions
On Sunday August 5 2018, forty trade union committees presented a memorandum to the Ministry of Labor Force complaining from violations affecting their rights including the freezing of their status that remains unsolved; under these circumstances, they are not allowed to conduct activities or organize events. The memorandum also referred to the numerous pressures exerted on them to join the General Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions of Workers; finally, it included the request that an inquiry be run about these grievances and claimed the right to obtain a nominal status and all subsequent privileges.
Although responsible employees at the Ministry of Labor Force received the memorandum and expressed readiness to organize a meeting with the complainers in order to discuss their objections, the attitude of Ministry’s representatives during the following fifty days reflected mere neglect and obvious procrastination. Accordingly, the situation remains unchanged and the status of many trade unions is pending without finalization of the measures related to the readjustment of their legal status. Moreover, some trade unions that succeeded to obtain a legal recognition were refused to run internal elections while some others were the subject of blunt violations during the election process such as putting aside some candidates from the membership of the executive board or even eliminating a single candidacy for the position of chairperson, all of which leading to the composition of incomplete boards and consequently a suspension of activities.
Stubborn attitudes and various types of violations are still going on as workers willing to establish new trade union committees according to the Law are not permitted to deposit their files or obtain the necessary letters to complete these files. On the other hand, the trade union committees that workers were able to establish before the elections didn’t receive until now the Ministry’s certificate enabling them to open bank accounts or to collect membership fees.
Another time, we are faced with new verbal directives including additional obstacles raised by the Ministry as well as conditions that are not included in the Law or its Executive Regulation. Such conditions include the necessity to provide a registered contract of ownership or rent of a location for those who are not yet established; another newly arising condition was the attendance of an employee from the Ministry in the founding general assembly representing thus a clear intervention in trade unions’ autonomy and is in pure contradiction not only with the basic principles of trade union freedom but with the provisions of the Law itself.
In front of these practices and the Ministry’s refusal to open a dialogue with trade unions whose status remains pending, we would like to clarify the following points:
Members of the general assembly have alone the right to adopt their own By-Laws and to choose their electoral system; though the Ministry of Labor Force is insisting again and again to re-install the badly reputed old system prevailing under the umbrella of the previous Trade Union Law with its tradition of monopolizing the ownership of trade unions, practicing administrative intrusions and violations of workers’ right to freely elaborate their own By-Laws and select their representatives.
While Law 213/2017 defined the trade union cycle as a four-year duration and imposed a specific mechanism to run elections, violating thus the principles of trade union freedoms (as was pointed out during our discussion of the draft Law and the objections expressed related to the expected problems in practical implementation), the actual Law never fixed a date for these elections or imposed on organizations lacking boards to be managed by administrative commissions until the next general elections.
According to the Law, new trade unions could be established any time and their boards holding full authorities should be freely elected by the general assembly; the Law stipulates also that trade unions have the right to develop their By-Laws, administrative and financial regulations, and freely elect their representatives. Moreover, public authorities are invited to abstain from any interventions restricting these rights or impeding its legitimate achievement (Article 64). Furthermore, the general assembly is specifically entitled to elect the board by virtue of either secret or direct ballot as well as the right to withdraw confidence from some or all members of the board by either way of ballot (Article 30); in addition, when the number of present board members is less than half of its composition, the board has to call for a general assembly within fifteen days in order to run complementary elections to select the new board members who will have to complement service during the remaining board cycle (Article 44 of the Law).
Therefore, there is no room to talk about administrative commissions but rather about general assemblies enjoying full rights of freely electing their representatives.
In addition, the Ministry of Labor Force and its directorates have introduced the condition of participation by one of their employees in the proceedings of the general assembly; this is a way to take us back to the old practices of direct interference and imposition of administrative monitoring.
Strangely enough, the Ministry and its directorates never answer the following logical question: from where are these conditions coming while there are no traces of them in the Law? The other alternative answer being: Orders!!
This is the current picture with the repression practiced by the Ministry towards workers willing to establish their trade unions, and trade union committees with a legalized status exposed to huge pressures in order to join the General Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions of Workers.
Indeed, the vast majority of independent trade union committees are unable to conduct their activities under the obstacles, stubbornness and pressures experienced from the Ministry that abstains from applying the terms of the Law and the attitude of the directorates refusing to react positively with independent trade unions or grant them the rights consecrated by the Law.
What we witness today is a comprehensive plot aiming at taking us back to the previous status quo and an attempt to turn the provisions of the Law into mere ink on paper by emptying their essence and abolishing independent trade unions in order to clean the space and enable the “governmental” General Federation to monopolize the entire picture.
While condemning all forms of violations against independent trade unions and workers willing to freely establishing their organizations, we call the government to stop all these practices and – at least – to respect the implementation of the Law without directives from unknown sources!!
Cairo, Oct 4 2018
 Interview in “Al Ahali” newspaper published on Wednesday 29 August 2018.