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:
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.
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