Statement On Participating in the Hearing Session at the Parliament

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Monday, November 6, 2017 - 12:27


Today Saturday 4 November 2017, representatives of CTUWS and The campaign to defend Trade Union Freedoms attended the second session of hearing organized by the labor force committee at the Parliament about the draft law for trade unions and the right of organizing.

Members of this delegation exposed their point of view regarding the draft law proposed by the government and the amendments introduced by the labor force committee, clarifying their main objections and presenting alternative proposals; the points discussed were specifically that:

  • The new law for trade unions is a requisite that has been delayed for years as the current law has become obsolete after 41 years during which several social and economic changes occurred including changes in the labor market with the withdrawal of the public sector for the benefit of the private one, the growth of the informal sector and non-organized types of labor occupying a wide space on the economic map;

Under these circumstances, the current law that imposes a single model regulating trade unions and affiliated to the government with no specific boundaries between the two, is no longer operational.  In addition, a situation lacking the mechanisms of collective negotiations that generate a balance between conflicting interests, cannot create social stability.  It is impossible to postpone one more time the deservedly right to freedom of organizing, not only to comply with articles 76 and 93 of the Constitution, basic labor standards and our international commitments ratified by the Egyptian government, but also because the workers have a pressing need for organizations accurately representing them, advocating for their rights and negotiating in their name in order to avoid the state of congestion extending to the various settings and fields in this arena.

  • The second article in the proposed draft law (becoming the third after amendments introduced by the labor force committee) includes clear discriminatory provisions leading to lack of equality between trade unions affiliated to the Egyptian Trade Unions Federation [ETUF] and independent trade unions as the first ones are entitled to keep their virtual identity after enactment of the law while the latter gain this qualification only after having regulated their status.

Discrimination and absence of equality in this article could result in the non-constitutionality of its provisions besides generating quite dangerous consequences when we compare it to article 12 of the draft mentioning the right of fifty workers or more in an institution to create its own trade union committee: the amendment introduced by exchanging the term “a trade union committee” by “its own trade union committee” might be interpreted as a ban from establishing more than one committee, especially in light of the recent declarations by some members of the Parliament labor force committee.

While such potential ban represents an evident contravention in its own capacity with the provisions of Convention 87, it also practically means the prevention from creating any other trade union in an institution that includes a trade union affiliated to the ETUF which keeps automatically its virtual status, i.e. a trade union preceding the existence of anyone else.

  • Furthermore, the deprivation of workers in institutions with less than fifty manpower from organizing practically means the exclusion of an important amount of institutions from enjoying this right, a fact that is incompatible with the current percentage of such institution in reality; we also note that the number fifty is irrational if we compare it with the numbers endorsed through international experiences and by the ILO.  In addition, the condition of 20,000 members to establish a general union and 200,000 for a general federation seems to be tailored as a means to prevent wide sectors of workers from having their own trade unions and federations as long as we are referring to a voluntary affiliation and not a systematic one.  The number of 20,000 is also in contradiction with the fact that in some cases- related to existing general unions-, the number of the whole workers in the sector does not reach this number as it is the case for the General Union for Public Transports and the General Union for Mines and Quarries' Workers which is actually affiliated to the ETUF.
  • Regarding article 12 mentioning, we noted that the levels of trade unions’ structure comprising trade unions’ committees for institutions, or professional trade unions at the level of the city or the governorate, general trade unions and the general federation, is obviously a replication of article 7 of Law 35/1976 that raised – and is still provoking – many criticism and rejection including on behalf of ILO Experts Committee.

Once again, we find ourselves in front of a pyramidal structure composed of three levels while the rich reality full of various initiatives should not presuppose that trade union committees of institutions have necessarily to be placed under a general union, or general unions under a general federation.  The proposed structure ignores also sectoral and regional federations that have effectively been formed during the past years, some of which deserving full respect and consideration.

  • The amendment introduced by the Parliamentarian committee on article 6 of the draft in order to avoid being exposed to remarks by ILO Experts Committee is a step forward as it changed the promulgation of model regulations by decree of the minister by erasing the term “decree” and stating that these are guiding regulations to be used when needed.  However, there is no reason to mention model or guiding regulation in the law as long as their purpose is to provide technical support for trade unions in developing their regulations, without being compulsory.
  • The listing of workers who the law is applying to them is an unjustified outbidding that will probably lead to deprive many other workers from creating trade unions; these include for example self-employed workers and fishermen while this right should be practiced by all categories; therefore, it would have been more suitable to only mention those excepted from the umbrella of this law according to the Constitution, i.e. workers in disciplinary institution.

Moreover, the article failed – intentionally or not – from mentioning pensioners or retired persons while we witness an inspiring experience proposed by the Pensioners Union considered as one of the most prominent organization that succeeded during the past years to truly represent retired people, and express their interests and requests through a series of significant round of negotiations.

  • Many articles of the draft violate the full right of unions general assemblies to freely elaborate and adopt the constitutions of their organizations without formal interventions; actually the articles referred to mention the duration of the trade union cycle, the conditions of membership, the criteria for applying to the board, the measures related to elections, etc.
  • By principle, we categorically refuse punishments related to the restriction of liberty when it comes to civil activities, contraventions of administrative nature, or in activities supposedly conducted on a voluntary basis.  In all cases, a trade unionist should enjoy immunity emanating from his affiliation and protecting him from being exposed to arbitrariness either on behalf of the employer, the official authorities or any other party.

CTUWS and The campaign to defend Trade Union Freedoms took the initiative of participating in the session organized this morning and granted all the attention it deserves and required by a draft law concerned with the right of Egyptian workers to establish their unions.  Such law will have an important impact on the status of workers, working relations, mechanisms of collective negotiations, and the social stability as a whole.

Despite our reservation about the period of hearing sessions limited to two days only, as well as its timing during the weekend that probably prevented some stakeholders from participating and expressing their points of view, both CTUWS and the Campaign hope that this session will not remain a mere décor to embellish the proposed law and aspire that the objections formulated during the meeting will be taken seriously in account.

Together towards a law securing trade union freedom and the right of Egyptian workers to organize freely.



The campaign to defend Trade Union Freedoms

Saturday November 4, 2017.

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