Inclusion of the Egyptian Government in the final list
of individual cases
Currently discussed at ILO 108th Conference
During ILO 108th Conference held these days in Geneva, the short list of individual cases was discussed by the Conference Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) and published on June 11 2019; the list includes twenty four cases (States) among which is Egypt; these cases are to be questioned about various types of contraventions, namely for Egypt regarding the implementation of Convention 87 concerning the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize.
ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) had already issued its report about Egypt last February stating that it regretfully noticed that despite all the efforts spent over the years to achieve a consensus between the Egyptian legislation and Convention 87, some of the provisions in the Law about Workers' Trade Unions and in its Executive Regulation resulted in serious obstacles impeding the full practice of trade union freedom for all the workers.
The report of this Committee referred also to the facts it was informed of about the processes related to the formal registration of trade unions and their elections, including the cases of trade unions succeeding to readjust their legal status but prevented from participating in elections, leading thus to their actual deprivation from practicing unionist activities. In addition, the report noted the irrational requests of documents to accept applications for registration, delays in receiving application files or in delivering certificates of registration, imposition of model formats of internal regulations, refusal of registering trade union committees in settings where another trade union committee is already in place, putting aside specific candidates, and exerting pressures on independent trade unions to force them joining the Egyptian Federation of Workers Trade Unions.
Although the Ministry of Labor Force had the right of formulating answers to the remarks included in the Commission's report, its only reaction was to deny the majority of mentioned facts that rely actually on a multitude of concrete proofs; besides, the Ministry promised to introduce amendments to Law 213/2010 about Workers' Trade Unions.
On May 10th 2019, ILO issued a memorandum to all State members about the preliminary list of cases proposed to be discussed before ILO Committee during the Conference to be held in Geneva; this list is known as the "long list" and comprised actually forty cases among which 24 would be selected to be examined in the Conference. The case of Egypt was included in the short-list in relation to contraventions in the implementation of Convention 87.
CEACR decided during its meeting on March 23rd 2019 to give a chance to the governments included in the preliminary list in order to provide additional information to the Committee. However, such information should be limited to any developments that were not previously sent or examined and pending on their submission at least two weeks prior to the Conference, i.e. on May 27th 2019.
On May 24th 2019, the Egyptian government delivered a memo to the Committee considering that its content pointed out to favorable developments towards compliance with Convention 87; these included the following information: 1) proposed amendments to Law 213/2017 were approved by the Egyptian Cabinet on May 22 2019 regarding the reduction of the required number of members to form trade union committees, general trade unions, and federation as well as the abolition of sanctions depriving from liberty; 2) a confirmation that all trade unions will be equally treated either under the umbrella of the General Federation or not, and that the Ministry was committed to guarantee the representation of independent trade unions despite their limited number; 3) a statement that the Ministry of Labor Force requested from complaining trade unions to submit their complaints and informed them of its readiness to enter into negotiations regarding this issue; however, due to the limited size of trade unions objections, these cases were resolved by a committee commissioned by the Ministry to solve all pending issues!!
Nevertheless, this "new" set of information was not sufficient to prevent the Egyptian government from being included in the final list of individual cases; this was due to several deficiencies in the Ministry's performance:
The government was too indolent in developing the amendments to be introduced in Law 213/2017, a state of relaxation that lasted until May 22nd 2019 when the decision appeared to come as a race against time while it had promised ILO a year and a half before to introduce these amendments;
Actually, the Cabinet of Ministers agreed to amend Articles 11 and 12 of the Law, then the parliamentarian Labor Force Committee agreed to amend Chapter 10 about penalties and sanctions; while welcoming this positive development, nobody can know when exactly these proposals will enter into force or if they will truly be enacted by the Parliament. Actually, negative experiences in this regard exceed positive ones, including all the events pertaining to Law 213/2017 whose enactment lasted for over six years with interchangeable draft laws ending with the worst version among all of them. Moreover, the proposed modified Article 11 was initially stating that trade union committees needed fifty members to be established; however, after discussion in the Parliament, the number was raised to 150 to be revisited and reduced today. Besides, the Labor Law has been in a state of stagnation in the Parliament for three years now and only God Knows when it will be enacted and ratified.
In its answer to ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, the Ministry of Labor Force denied all the information that had reached CEACR about coercive measures in the process of registration and readjustment of legal status for trade unions: it also refuted the fact that it received any grievances and pledged itself to solve all the problems not only by waiting for complaints to come to its desks but by taking the initiative of contacting the negatively affected organizations and discussing all problems with them.
However, what happened actually is that forty trade union committees had sent a memo on August 5 2018 to the Ministry of Labor Force complaining from exposure to stubbornness and complications preventing them from practicing their activities; in this memo they referred to the pressures exerted to force them joining the Egyptian General Federation of Trade Unions and requesting that an inquiry be conducted about their complaints in order to attain the legal status and its inherent rights.
On January 9 2019, twenty nine trade unions presented the request to meet the Minister of Labor Force including a memo complaining from the irrational measures they were exposed to in incompatibility with the provisions of Law 213/2017 and its Executive Regulation. Despite all the attempts of these trade unions, the Ministry abstained from setting an appointment.
Consequently, the organizations presented another memo to the Cabinet whose secretariat sent memo of referral number 2100-7 on January 22nd 2019 to the Minister of Labor Force, but no answer was received until this date.
Over long months, trade unions attempted to enter in negotiations with the Egyptian government and through contacting several governmental parties including the Presidency of the Cabinet, the Ministry of Investment, and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce; however, the only perceived message was a governmental determination to remain in the same state of mind and follow the same path of neglect.
In its answer to CEACR sent on May 24th 2019, the Ministry of Labor Force says that it has established a committee to examine the cases of trade unions complaining from unsettled status; however, the fact is that it is the trade unions who proposed to the Ministry in September 2018 to create such a committee and no answer was received until today.
Applications of organizations to readjust their legal status are facts documented through complaints filled at police stations and other legal measures that cannot be denied.
The attempts feverishly deployed by the Cabinet with various ILO Committees (CEACR and CAS) did not and could not succeed to redress the mistakes and practices of the Cabinet of ministers since March 2018, as they represent contraventions to the same Law forged by the government and are in flagrant neglect for many of its provisions; they also show the occurrence of power abuse without even making the effort of presenting valuable justifications to explain the violations.
The case of numerous trade unions remains unsettled despite having followed the right procedures and presented all the required documents and information in due time. Until now, the Ministry hasn't presented any convincing explanation, or legal proof of incompatibility with the set procedures; meanwhile, all these organizations are subject to strong pressures from various governmental parties to oblige them joining the "governmental" Egyptian General Federation of Trade Unions.
The directorates of labor force which are the concerned administrative bodies to deal with these files refuse systematically to accept the applications of trade union committees although their files are complete according to the provisions of the Law. The pretext of these directorates is that they did not receive directives from the Ministry to register independent trade unions that were established outside the umbrella of the Egyptian General Federation of Trade Unions.
In the few cases directorates accepted to receive the files of independent trade unions, letters of receipt were not delivered according to the provisions of the Law; the absence of duly stamped receipts prevents these organizations from opening bank accounts, conducting their activities or representing their members.
Moreover, the Ministry of Labor Force invented various stratagems to violate the legitimate right of general assemblies to develop their own By-Laws.
The Ministry of Labor Force and the Egyptian General Federation of Trade Unions have composed a huge delegation including 60 members to attend ILO Conference under the idea that this could avoid the exposure of Egypt to be included in the short-list of individual cases. However, this is merely absurd and has no other result than giving a negative impression that cannot be rehabilitated by the participation of previously independent trade union representatives who chose to rejoin the Egyptian General Federation of Trade Unions and claim all over the place it was a free decision and that they never enjoyed such an amount of freedom before.
Resolving the issue with ILO and avoiding inclusion in the short-list would have required a different behavior and path over the past two years: developing a harmony between the Law and ILO Convention, implementation of the Law without discrimination enabling all trade unions to attain legal status and practice their activities and all Egyptian workers from freely establishing their organizations.
Thursday June 13, 2019