Geballi’s Amendments to the Trade Union Law Reveal the Weakness of the Governmental Federation .. The head of the “Labor Force” Puts his own Interests Above those of Egypt’s Reputation and Workers’ Rights

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Sunday, February 11, 2018 - 11:51

Geballi’s Amendments to the Trade Union Law Reveal the Weakness of the Governmental Federation

The head of the “Labor Force” Puts his own Interests Above those of Egypt’s Reputation and Workers’ Rights

The “governmental” Egyptian Trade Union Federation and its president Geballi Mohamed El Geballi El Maraghi, head of the Labor Force Committee in the Parliament, couldn’t bear to wait few months until the full implementation of Law 213/2017; actually, the Labor Force Committee participated in the elaboration of this Law which consecrates the right of independent trade unions’ to be formally established; the provision was based on the Constitution as well as Egypt’s international commitments, especially that independent trade unions have proved their popularity since 2008 and gained both local and international recognition.  The acknowledgement of their value came despite all the administrative and bureaucratic obstacles they had to face.  In parallel, the organizational structure of ETUF is deteriorating due to its fragility, its distance from the real concerns of workers, and its constant support to the policies adopted by any ruling power including that of the Muslim brothers.  In compensation, the successive powers continued to nominate Geballi on top of ETUF as well as member in other legislative bodies such as the “Shoura” Council under the Muslim Brothers and in the present Parliament. However, the prevailing official policies were continuously against workers’ interests, beginning with the free market policies including the privatization of productive enterprises and public services (e.g. health and education), and leading to huge rates of inflation, the decrease of workers’ acquired rights and their deprivation from any type of legal or trade unionist protection.  This resulted in a daily fight of workers for the improvement of their work and living conditions without being backed by the support of organizations representing their interests.

MP Geballi El Maraghi and president of the “governmental” Federation declared lately to the press that he was preparing some amendments to Law 213/2017 to be submitted to the Parliament for discussion, mentioning that the actual implementation of the Law revealed some defects and that some of its articles would lead to the collapse of the trade union movement.  Needless to say that by this statement he was most probably referring to the collapse of his own Federation which wouldn’t have survived for the past forty years without the strong support of the State apparatus and the rule of a shameful Law imposing on Egyptian workers a trade union formula going against their free will.

Moreover, El Maraghi explained that the Law led to shrinking the number of participants in trade unions as a result of all the obstacles raised; he also referred to the stubbornness of the Ministry of Labor Force mentioning that it used to request papers that are not required or mentioned in the Law or its Executive Regulation. 

Actually, the first symptoms of recession in the numbers of workers and withdrawals of trade union committees that were able to obtain the legal status are apparent within ETUF since these are no longer in need to be affiliated to a governmental institution.  In addition, the difficulties occurring either during the phase of legal status readjustment or the phase of the elections were mainly – and continue to be – conducted against independent trade unions.

Therefore, what is the reason for El Maraghi complaints? What are the amendments he is seeking to introduce? And what are the interests behind this?

The reality became transparent through El Maraghi declarations to the press: the man said he was targeting to amend some articles related to the procedures of establishment, the readjustment of legal status and getting a formal identity.

Therefore, what El Maraghi is specifically searching for is to add additional restrictions to the establishment of trade union committees and abolish the provision granting them a virtual identity in order to protect his Federation from vanishing and therefore lose all the privileges related to his post.

In fact, the right of workers to establish their trade unions outside the umbrella of the governmental Federation and gain a virtual identity are the main assets obtained in Law 213/2017 despite the almost paralyzing conditions raised in front of the establishment of independent trade unions in several sectors of work. These gains are a result of the development of the trade union movement during the past few years and the necessity for the government to get rid of the old obsolete Law in order to be removed from ILO “black list”. 

Accordingly, El Maraghi only concerns are to preserve his personal interests, without any worry about Egypt’s international reputation.  This is what the Egyptian government should be aware of before committing itself to support opportunists who care only about themselves at the account of Egypt public interests.

We request that MP/ETUF president presents to workers accounts of his performance during the period of his presidency similarly to the procedures followed by independent trade unions with their general assembly; we also demand a justification of the huge growth of his wealth during the period of his service.

The Central Authority of Accounting is appealed to make public its annual reports about the offences committed by ETUF and the general trade unions affiliated to the Federation as well as the measures that were taken in this regard.

ETUF leaders - who are attempting to pass on their posts to their sons, or using stratagems to keep their posts and the subsequent benefits including ownership of real estate, travel trips abroad exceeding millions of pounds deducted from the rights of workers – are not only lacking credibility regarding workers’ rights, but are also illegible in terms of developing legislations.

It is important to note here that the campaign for trade union freedoms has called since the enactment of Law 213/2017 to amend many of its provisions; these claims do not derive from the motive of personal interests but are rather related to ensure full compatibility with the Constitution, international labor standards, and Agreement 87 to which the Egyptian government has committed itself and that is intended to secure the freedom of workers to establish independent trade unions. The requested amendments include the following:

  1. Abolishing any provision holding a glimpse of discrimination between trade unions, either those connected with the official Federation or independent ones, and applying unified norms and rules equally to everybody;
  2. Mentioning only the sectors forbidden from establishing trade unions instead of referring to the sectors who fall under the Law; this amendment would avoid forgetting to mention some sectors and consequently leading to a loss of their rights such as was the case for fishermen and pensioners;
  3. Implementing the right of general assemblies to adopt their own organizational structure (either vertical or horizontal) as well as the right of creating sectoral and regional federations;
  4. Abstaining from imposing to workers a specific trade union in any enterprise, considering that the establishment of trade unions is the sole right of workers;
  5. Decreasing the numbers requested to form basic trade unions as to be compatible with the widespread number of small and micro enterprises in the Egyptian economy; moreover, the number of basic trade union committees to form general trade unions should be reduced to ten with a membership of 5000 workers each (instead of the present condition of 15 basic committees with a membership of 20,000 each); this should also be applicable for sectoral federations at the national level;
  6. Abolishing Article 40 that is in fact a prolongation of provisions included in the old Law aiming at perpetuating the occupation of boards by specific figures;
  7. Amending Article 41 paragraph “d” about the conditions of candidacy for boards, as these conditions are textually copied from the abolished Law and specifically tailored for workers in the public sector while this sector is currently gradually reduced and replaced by the non-organized labor force and workers with temporary contracts;
  8. Amending Article 42 that defines the duration and timing of the trade union cycle and leaving the decision about this matter to the general assembly of each organization and its By-Laws including the adopted electoral rules, the guarantees of democratic conduct during these elections as well as the means of monitoring them by trade union members.

Cairo, November 18 2018

Campaign for the Freedom of Trade Unions and Workers Rights  

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