A Preliminary Reading of the Draft Law On Trade Union Organizations and Protection of the Right to Organize.. Presented by Parliamentarian Abdel Fattah Mohamed Abdel Fattah

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 16:31

A Preliminary Reading of the Draft Law

On Trade Union Organizations and Protection of the Right to Organize

Presented by Parliamentarian Abdel Fattah Mohamed Abdel Fattah


MP Abdel Fattah Mohamed Abdel Fattah presented another draft law on Trade Union Organizations and protection of the right to organize (hereinafter the ‘Draft Law’), that slightly differs from the draft law presented by the government, to the Labor Force Commission at the Egyptian Parliament; Abdel Fattah’s draft is actually known as the “governmental” General Federation’s proposal.

The Labor Force Commission at the Parliament – mainly composed of members from the governmental Federation – has already begun, on Tuesday October 24, 2017, discussing the two drafts in order to formulate the articles of the law to be enacted by the Parliament.

Although, the Draft Law was not available for any party for thorough reading until recently; due to some its threatening provisions and the beginning of the enactment countdown, it was deemed necessary to present this preliminary reading:

  • In the general provisions chapter, article 5 is similar to article 2 in the government’s proposal, concerning the registration provisions, as it states that trade unions “already formed and registered by virtue of Law 35/1976 shall maintain their legal personality”. But the additional specification of Law 35/1976 in the Draft Law is intended as not to leave any room for interpretations concerning the designated trade unions (trade unions affiliated to the governmental General Federation only), otherwise, the Draft Law does not recognize accordingly the existence of any other trade unions independent from the governmental Federation.

The text of article 5, moreover, is quite confusing and contradictory regarding the maintaining of the legal personality of trade unions affiliated to the governmental Federation that the Draft Law recognizes as “starting from the date of filing required registration documents at the competent administrative parties” with immediate effect to conduct their activities . This makes us wonder whether they keep their existing legal personality or they acquired it upon re-filing an application for registration?! However, the trade unions addressed by this draft law are the ones affiliated to governmental Federation, as it totally ignores trade unions independent from the governmental Federation and not registered by virtue of Law 35/1976.

The intended meaning of Article 5, which discriminates between “governmentally” affiliated trade unions and independent trade unions, and invalidates their acquired legal status, has been and will always remain for us a controversial point and one of the most reprehensible provisions in the draft proposed by the government. Yet, it foreshadows further severe consequences when read and applied with articles 8 & 12 from the Draft Law.

Article 8 states that “A trade union is formed both in horizontal and vertical categories including one trade union committee within the same establishment…etc.” Article 12 stipulates that “Workers and apprentices who come from the same trade, occupation or industry, or who are interconnected or related with similar products shall have the right to form a general trade union, up to a maximum of two at the Republic level… etc.”

The legislators of the Draft Law- as the case with the government’s law- insist on keeping article 7 of Law 35/1976 with the introduction of some amendments in order to avoid harsh criticism addressed previously to this article. This is doable by avoiding previous severely-criticized pyramid structure, and maintaining the inescapable premise of the existence of a sole trade union within the same establishment.

The inclusion of provisions prohibiting the existence of more than one trade union committee in each establishment and more than two general trade unions at the Republic level is a cunning scheme to stop the formation of new independent unions and to delegitimize existing ones that have been operating on ground for several years. This might be the most notorious aspect of this Draft Law.  Actually, if the Draft Law is enacted without any amendments, no existing independent trade union will have the right to file for registration if another trade union – even a fake one – affiliated to the General Federation had already acquired its legal personality in a given setting.

The fact is that these drafts are anti-constitutional and clearly in contravention to the Work Convention number 87, in their attempt to protect the governmental Federation the emerging independent trade union movement, deprive workers in the public and governmental sectors from their fundamental rights to create and select their own organizations.

  • Upon reading the Draft Law, we can easily conclude that it was tailored to fit the status quo by shrinking to the maximum the available space for independent trade unions and consecrating the governmental hegemony over the entire sector. This can  be clearly detected from the following:
  • Article 8 aims at reorganizing the worker’s public arena that witnessed the real existence of independent trade unions by forcing them back into a single trade unionist body which gives room to very limited diversity, as previously demonstrated;
  • The right of establishing trade unions is also subject to several limitations attempting to put this right under siege or at least limiting potential opportunities of actions; among these limitations:
  • The limitation of required numbers for registration is quite alarming: twenty trade union committees have to include 50,000 workers to create a general trade union and ten general trade unions have to include 150,000 workers to create a general federation (note the contradiction between number 150,000 and 10X50,000);
  • Six conditions are required for membership in trade unions (that do not include the condition of Egyptian nationality mentioned in the draft of the government and subject to a remark formulated by ILO), and five conditions for candidacy for the board. In Addition, membership in the general assembly of a trade union or applying for the board is conditioned to have a least one year membership in the trade union although the Constitutional Court judged this provision as unconstitutional;
  • The imposed trade unions’ structure and levels such as the denomination of trade union committee and the abolition of thematic federations, then the imposition of a single model of federation at the national level; and
  • Similarly to the draft presented by the government, the Draft Law violates the authorities of the general assembly which has no right to choose the modalities regulating its work in a compatible way with its objectives nor the scope of its activities. In the fact, it suggests quasi- single and unified by-laws for all trade unions.


  • The Draft Law authorizes the concerned ministry as well as the General Federation of Workers to oppose the measures undertaken for the establishment of a trade union and have the right to take legal proceedings against its establishment before the specialized Partial Court. The concerned minister has also the right to request from the specialized Primary Court to dissolve the board of an organization accused to have committed contraventions.

In addition, the Draft Law mentions that the general attorney office is entitled to request from the specialized Penal Court to dissolve a board if any decision or action issued by this board is considered as a crime. These crimes include the incitement to and propagation of principles aiming at changing the basic provisions of the Constitution through illegal means, leaving work or abstaining intentionally from working if the nature of this work was involving a national service, a national need or a public utility, and inciting to or encouraging such action. Once again, we are confronting lose, vague and ambiguous expressions that are open to interpretations, such as considering a strike as a crime in some cases, for instance a strike in a factory of cattle provender could be constituted as a crime since it provides for a national need!

Finally, this Draft Law is an attempt to circumvent international standards of labor, denying the right of organizing and preventing workers’ initiatives.  Above all, it represents a pressing threat by restricting the right to establish more than one trade union within the same establishment combined with the prior recognition of trade unions affiliated to the governmental Federation at the expenses of independent trade unions.



Sunday October 29, 2017

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