The Year of Repetition of the Same Old Practices
Report on Violations of Freedom of Association from the 1st of January to the 31st of December 2018
Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services (CTUWS)
The Egyptian government, represented in the Ministry of Manpower and Immigration, was not completely honest in its pledges to ILO Standards Committee regarding the removal of obstacles on freedoms of association so that Egypt’s name is removed from the list of individual cases commonly known as the blacklist of the ILO. Being removed from this list meant entering the Better Work Programme which means more investments.
To prove its seriousness, the Ministry - without sufficient deliberations or appropriate social dialogue - quickly passed a legislation that is supposed to allow workers to freely establish their own unions, in cooperation with the Manpower Committee of the House of Representatives which is composed of leaders of the government-affiliated Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF). However, this legislation was an exact copy reproduced from the old Law no. 35 for the year 1976. This took place at the time of the visit of the direct contacts mission of the ILO which is responsible for evaluating progress achieved regarding the pledges of the government.
The Ministry of Manpower was giving the ILO the words it wants to hear but the Ministry knew that it was not going to free trade unions or leave any opportunity for the rise of an equivalent competitor to the government-affiliated ETUF (the labour arm of the government). The Law in fact considered that the ETUF and its sectoral federations enjoy legal personality, and denied this to other unions independent from the ETUF unless they go through a sophisticated process of legalization of status. The Ministry even started to request independent unions to fulfill unjustifiable requirements that have no basis in the Law or its Executive Regulations.
The Ministry had public decisions. But it also made secret decisions. A shadow ministerial committee was deciding which unions will be legalized and which will not. It issued legalization certificates pursuant to the dictates of security apparatuses and the ETUF. Moreover, the Ministry deliberately refused to legalize the status of some big enterprise-level unions so that no sectoral federations are legalized except those which are affiliated with the ETUF. On the other hand, it facilitated the submission of documents of the administrative committees affiliated to the ETUF although their members are less - and sometimes far less - than 150 members.
During the trade union elections,  the Ministry devised a bizarre scenario in order to revive a dead confederation that does not represent workers and which is led by a bunch of beneficiaries. It led a massive exclusion and disqualification campaign removing thousands of candidates to the elections of the administrative boards of first-level unions in favour of particular candidates. Disqualification was not confined to unionists from independent trade unions or unionists who oppose the policies of the ETUF. Disqualification also included members of the boards of enterprise-level unions and sectoral federations who are known to be loyal to the government-affiliated ETUF in order to enable leaders of the ETUF to win their seats in the enterprise-level unions uncontested and even to enable their sons to win leadership positions and facilitate the inheritance of their fathers’ posts.
Now, after the end of the worst elections in the history of Egyptian trade union movement, new enterprise-level unions cannot submit their documents pursuant to the Law or receive the necessary letters to conclude their process of legalization. Moreover, enterprise-level unions that workers managed to establish before elections did not receive the required letters from the Ministry of Manpower until now. So, they could not open their bank accounts or collect subscriptions. The Ministry requires the founders of the trade union to have premises, submit the proof of its ownership or lease officially notarized, before the union is established and before it acquires its legal personality. The Ministry even required that an employee of the Ministry of Manpower attends the proceedings of the constituent general assembly.
Over the past year, the Ministry was trying hard to change realities on the ground in order to fit its conception of the trade union organization. It views the vertically expanding reality of workers organization in different sectors with a one dimensional hierarchical perspective. It puts obstacles and creates restrictions in order to reproduce the old and rigid situation instead of the vivid and varied current situation so that the result becomes the so-called Egyptian Trade Unions Federation which is a deformed union structure.
What is happening unfortunately leads us to think that we are facing a complete conspiracy aiming at abolishing change and reproducing the past, as well as turning the provisions of the Law on Trade Union Organizations and Protection of the Right to Organize (which guaranteed the rights of workers to establish their own organizations) into dead letter. This takes place not only by making these provisions void of practical relevance but also by destroying trade union organizations which are independent from the government-affiliated ETUF that monopolizes trade unionism.
This takes place concurrently with the closure of tfe spaces for work for civil society, and the issuance of a new Law for NGOs which includes criminal punishments of imprisonment and financial fines amounting one million EGP for violations thereof. This Law prevents any association or foundation from conducting or publishing studies or questionnaires without prior official permission.
This is alongside austerity measures taken by the government in line wiih the IMF program that include the imposition of the value-added tax, reduction of subsidies on fuel, and floatation the currency which led to sharp increases in prices of fuel and rising inflation rates which are suffered by large sectors of workers in Egypt in which almost 30% of the population are below poverty line.
The current situation is characterized by hegemony of one dimensional vision, lack of community participation and dialogue, deprivation of the right to organize, and circumventing the Law under fierce economic conditions. This situation seems to continue until further notice.
Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services
2 January 2019
Events of the Year of Repetition of the Same Old Practices
The Law on Trade Union Organizations and Protection of the Right to Organize no. 213 for 2017 was issued on Monday the 18th of December 2017 following its signature by the President of the Republic. In fact, some of the Law’s provisions are contradictory to the Egyptian Constitution, especially articles related to the abolition of discrimination, protection of the right to organize, and respect for international instruments.
The Law violates ILO Freedom of Association Convention no. 87 as it imposes the model of the government-affiliated ETUF. It seeks to incorporate the trade union movement via state interventions that take the form of legal and procedural means which contradicts the provisions of the Convention, especially article 2 thereof which stipulates that workers “shall have the right to establish and, subject only to the rules of the organization concerned, to join organizations of their own choosing without previous authorization,” as well as article 11 which obliges member states joining this Convention “to take all necessary and appropriate measures to ensure that workers and employers may exercise freely the right to organize.”
The Law determines the structure of trade union organizations to include three levels: the first level is the union of workers of the same enterprise or the workers in the same profession in a city or a governorate; the sectoral federation of unions working in the same industry, and the confederation of sectoral federations throughout the country. This is the same old formulation of the pyramid-shaped structure of the trade union movement. However, reality is full of diversified initiatives and unions in enterprises that are not part of any sectoral federations. There are also sectoral federations that refuse to join any confederations. It also ignores the existence of thematic (sectoral confederations) at the national level, as well as regional confederations that have been established during the past years. This is in fact a reproduction of article 7 of the old Law no. 35 for 1976 and a restriction of the trade union movement which actually exists on the ground.
The Law also deprives workers in enterprises which have less than 150 workers from the right to establish their own unions. This is in fact a huge number of enterprises. The Law also set the minimum number of workers in a sectoral federation to be 20,000 members, and that for a national confederation to be 200,000 members. All these conditions aim at disabling workers from exercising their right to establish unions and federation as the number of workers in many sectors does not amount to such figures.
From the start, the Law discriminates between unions affiliated to the ETUF and independent unions. The first category retains its legal personality after the issuance of the Law, while the other category of unions has to undergo a process of legalization in order to acquire legel personality.
Moreover, the Law allows those who retired to continue in their union positions if they signed a labour contract that falls under the same professional category. This was in the direct personal interest of eight (out of nine) members of the administrative committee supervising the government-affiliated ETUF who reached the age of retirement in order to guarantee the dominance of the old guards on top of the ETUF.
In order to prevent the entry into force of this Law which is biased to the ETUF (the labour arm of the government), a number of labour leaders filed a lawsuit on the 15th of February 2018 at the Court of Administrative Justice. The case took the number of 24838 for the judicial year 72 to demand the revocation of the decision of the President of the Republic to issue the Law on Trade Union Organizations and Protection of the Right to Organize and its publication in the Official Gazette.
This cases is based on the fact that the Law was issued in contradiction to article 121 of the constitution which stipulates that “Laws complementing the Constitution are issued based on the approval of two thirds of the members of the House. Laws regulating the presidential, parliamentary, and local elections, political parties, the judiciary, and judicial bodies, and those organizing the rights and duties stipulated in the Constitution are deemed complementary to it.” This did not happen when the Law was passed as the number of members attending that session did not amount to that ratio. Moreover, voting was done in a way that makes it impossible to know whether two-thirds majority was available.
Plaintiffs also demanded that article three of the enactment clauses of the Law and articles 10, 11 and 12 thereof are referred to the Supreme Constitutional Court arguing that they violate article 93, 76, 53 and 9 of the Constitution of Egypt.
The Trade Union Organizations Law was proposed by the Ministry of Manpower. The Executive Regulations of this Law was issued on the 14th of March 2018. It did not add much. The detailed provisions of the Law itself have already exceeded the rights of unions to formulate their own bylaws. In spite of this tendency for excessive details, some of the provisions of the Law remained unclear and vague. The Law includes provisions that are copied from the old Law no. 35 for 1976, and these provisions overlap with new provisions that approved the right of workers to establish their unions, and adopt their own bylaws and internal regulations without intervention. Faced with such contradiction and confusion, the government’s need was pressing for Executive Regulations that not only interpret articles of the Law, but also complement its provisions especially when it comes to mechanisms for transition from the old context to the new completely difference one.
However, the Executive Regulations did no resolve the contradiction of article 11 of Law no. 213 for 2017 which states that workers in the enterprise have the right to establish an enterprise-level union that includes at least 150 member workers. It may be understood from this article that it is forbidden to establish more than one union in the same enterprise. This was one of the remarks of the direct contacts mission in its report. The Executive Regulations could have stated this explicitly as a way of regulating the implementation of the Law that does not contradict it.
The Executive Regulations of the Law included eight chapters in addition to a guiding occupational classification. The Regulations covered the following: legalization process; full time union work, union roles and educational courses; union elections, among other important topics that could not be discussed by unions, unionists, labour rights activists, and legal experts and all concerned parties.
Although the Executive Regulations assigned 19 articles for union elections, there are some points that remained unclear and vague. It was not clear how elections of sectoral federations should be held nation-wide at the same time and under one system while there are many federations and confederations whose dates of establishment and electoral terms are different? How union elections are going to be held in the newly established organizations? How elections may be held in an enterprise or location that has more than one union?
Legalization of Status
Law no. 213 for 2017 stipulated that there is a period of 60 days after the enactment of the Law in which independent unions are obliged to take certain procedures mentioned in the Law and its Executive Regulations in spite of the objections against some of the unfair provisions of the Law. Nevertheless, many of these unions submitted their documents for the process of legalization immediately after the start of this period to the Directorates of the Ministry of Manpower. Employees of the Ministry refused to deal with independent unions waiting for the Ministerial Instructions regulating the work of these directorates. These Instructions were only issued on Tuesday the 20th of March 2018, accompanied by the Ministerial Decision no. 42 for 2018 by the Central Administration for Manpower. This means that the first week of the determined period was lost.
It became clear that Manpower Directorates exercise such restrictive bureaucratic practices in order to obstruct the exercise of a right guaranteed by Law specifically targeting trade unions that are independent from the government-affiliated ETUF. It did not only require them to submit documents, papers and conditions specified by Law, Executive Regulations and Ministerial Instructions, but also demanded other requirements that are not based on any law. Manpower Directorates deliberately referred independent trade unions that are trying to legalize their status to other administrative bodies especially offices of Real Estate Registration and Notarization, and offices of the National Authority for Social Insurance. The former stated that they don’t have any instructions to documents papers belonging to trade unions (or actually that they have instructions not to document any papers belonging to trade unions), while the latter stated that they cannot put their stamps on any documents of any kind. Moreover, administrations of many companies in the private sector refused to stamp the lists of the members of the general assembly of the unions of workers in these companies. So, the Law made the right to organize dependent to the approval of the employer which is effectively an undermining of this right.
Some independent unions could not receive a certificate that they legalized their status pursuant to the Executive Regulations of the Law and the Instructions issued by the Ministry of Manpower, although they fulfilled all required conditions and submitted all necessary documentations. Employees of the Directorates of the Ministry of Manpower merely gave the representatives of unions a letter stating the receipt of these documents and asked them to wait till they are done with review of the documents. It turned out later that review is being done by National Security.
It became clear during the time-limit of the legalization process that there are two sets of instructions. The first set is the declared one which is the official Instructions issued by the Ministry of Manpower. The other one is secret and coming from an unknown source and states that the legalization process of independent unions has to be obstructed and stopped as much as possible. Mr. Gebally Al-Maraghy, President of the ETUF, interfered with Mr. Fathy Desouky, director of the Directorate of Manpower in AL-Qalyubeya blaming the Directorate for allowing the legalization of independent trade unions that need to be gotten rid of. In fact, the director positively responded to the request of the President of the ETUF and summoned the Unions Liaison Officer of the Directorate and asked him to slow down the legalization process of independent unions and to procrastinate responding to their demands.
The attitude of r. Mohammed Eissa, President of the Central Administration in the Ministry of Manpower, clearly changed afterwards. Representatives of unions used to resort to Mr. Eissa to resolve conflicts with employees of the Directorates of Manpower regarding documents and conditions they require without any basis in the Law or Executive Regulations. He used to intervene in a positive way and ask the Directorates to abide only by what is written in the Law, Regulations, or Ministerial Instructions. However, following a meeting that is said to have been held at the premises of the Ministry, he started to agree on such unjustifiable demands and the door that was relatively open in front of independent unions became closed.
Obtaining the certificate of legalization of status, which the Directorates of Manpower are obliged to issue for unions pursuant to the Law and its Executive Regulations, became very difficult in spite of fulfilling all documentations and conditions required by Law and Executive Regulations. The reason is that the role of the Directorates became confined to receiving and checking documents before sending them to the Ministry of Manpower where it remains there for weeks so that a ministerial committee working in secret takes the decision whether their status will be legalized or not.
It was clarified many times that there is nothing to prevent the establishment of two unions in the same enterprise. However, the legalization process revealed that the Ministry of Manpower and its Directorates consistently prohibited the legalization of any trade union that is independent from the ETUF as long as there is another union in this enterprise that is affiliated to the ETUF. This attitude is not justified or based on any legal basis.
Enterprise-level unions that are affiliated to the ETUF consistently submitted lists of members issued by the administrations of companies that include members that were forcibly added to the unions’ lists and their subscriptions was automatically deducted when they started working in those companies. So, some of these lists include names of members of independent unions. The Ministry of Manpower used such duplication as an easy pretext to refuse the legalization process of independent unions claiming that they have members who are already members in another union. Independent unions were required to prove that these members belong thereto by submitting a poof of their members’ withdrawal from ETUF-affiliated members but not vise versa.
The Ministry of Manpower and its Directorates also insisted on refusing the bylaws that unions made by themselves and forced unionists to adopt “model” bylaws issued by the Ministry. This is in contradiction to the Law, Executive Regulations and the Ministerial Decision no. 36 for 2018 which issued these “model” bylaws. The Ministry explained this by saying that it is hard for its employees to review all these bylaws. It also justified this by claiming that this is a “suspicion” period, and that there are no controlled general assemblies of trade union members held to approve these bylaws. So, it gave to itself the powers of the general assemblies based on an assumption that these assemblies may not convene and take any decisions.
The Ministry and its Directorates flagrantly hindered the legalization process of many enterprise-level unions in different governorates that belong to big independent federations which exceed 20,000 members like that of workers in Real Estate Taxation Authority so that there are no sectoral federations on the national level that don’t belong to the government-affiliated ETUF.
Faced by these obstacles, pressures and excessive bureaucratic practices, some unions had no choice but to submit their documents in courts requesting they are handed over to the competent Directorates of Manpower via official bailiff. This was done by the Sectoral Federation of Unions of Workers in Communications, some of the first-level Unions of Workers in Real Estate Taxation Authority in different governorates, and the Unions of Workers in the Egyptian Ambulance Authority, and the Union of Workers in Al-Waha Hotel.
As soon as the process of legalization was over, those unions which managed to legalize their statuses had to enter a fierce battle on the next day. They had to move immediately to the next stage which is the electoral process of the three levels of trade union organizations (i.e. that of the enterprise-level unions, sectoral federations, and national confederation) that was conducted all over the country in a very short and critical period (the month of Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr (Lesser Barium) during which work is slow) amid absence of media coverage and community monitoring.
The First phase of the elections of the enterprise-level unions for the term of 2018-2022 began with allowing candidates to apply for nomination on the 16th and 17th of May 2018. It extended for eleven days including two days for voting (the 23rd and 24th of May). The second phase started with allowing candidates to apply for nomination on the 25th and 26th of May. It lasted for nine days ending with elections on Thursday, the 31st of May 2018 and the submission of documents on the 1st and 2nd of June 2018.
Everybody had to run in a hurry in order to complete the required documents and take the necessary procedures, including those who are supposed to organize and regulate the electoral process. The time frame was too tight to the extent that it is not sufficient to fulfill all sound procedural steps for elections that guarantee the rights of all members of trade unions to nominate themselves without discrimination; the rights of candidates to promote their programs and carry out campaign activities; and the rights of voters to elect the best candidates capable of truly representing them and their interests.
As a normal consequence of the tight schedule of elections and the huge number of candidates, several administrative mistakes took place, such as misplacing the names of candidates on the lists, delaying the publication of lists, and other matters that negatively affected the overall electoral process.
Moreover, the Ministry of Manpower managed to conduct a large scale process of exclusion and disqualification of candidates based on different pretexts. The Ministry was acting according to the directions of the government-affiliated ETUF and of security apparatuses. This process affected hundreds of candidates to the administrative boards of trade unions in favour of other candidates. Exclusion and disqualification did not only take place against members of independent trade unions or workers’ leaders who are considered opponents to ETUF’s policies, but it also affected members of enterprise-level unions and sectoral federations that are affiliated to the ETUF. This is an indicator of an existing conflict within the ETUF itself.
Disqualification of unwanted people did not only take place in order to allow the leaders of ETUF to win their seats uncontested, but even to make their sons hold positions in the boards of trade unions in order to guarantee full control over the ETUF.
The Ministry put obstacles to appeals and complaints to prevent candidates who were disqualified from participating in elections. It gave the Commissions overseeing elections the authority to hear and decide in the appeals made by disqualified candidates. These commissions were the ones that originally made the decisions to exclude these candidates from the lists. Thus, they became a defendant and a judge at the same time.
Moreover, appeals and complaints witnessed many illegal practices that deprived complainants from the things they need later at the litigation process. The General Commission overseeing elections refused to give complainants or plaintiffs in most of the cases any document that proves that they filed complaints. Most of complainants did not even receive any response or statement explaining why their names were removed from the electoral lists. In addition, final electoral lists were announced very late at night after the end of the deadline for appealing. Thus, they lost right to appeal.
The electoral process already started before issuance of the decision to form labour court circuits which are supposed to review appeals and complaints, make judgments, and redress the situation. This was an additional factor that negatively affected the appeals made by some members of independent trade unions before the Courts of First Instance in which it is hard to make urgent lawsuits.
The second phase of elections was for the election of leadership of sectoral federations which started on the 11th of June 2018. In this phase, systematic and concurrent exclusions during the elections of the first-level unions (i.e. enterprise-level unions) shaped the features of the elections of the administrative boards of the next level which is the sectoral federations. The administrative boards of 15 out of 27 sectoral federations did not have any competition in elections as members of the boards were elected uncontested. In the other 12 federations which saw some competition: three had elections merely for the members of the administrative board while there was just one candidate for the presidency; two federations had elections merely for the presidency while seats of the administrative boards were filled uncontested; and in seven federations, elections took place for both the board and the president.
The final scene of this farce was the formation of the administrative board of the ETUF away from the participation of workers, inside the corridors and closed chambers of the ETUF, and by agreement of the heads sitting on top of the 27 sectoral federations including the President, General Secretary and Treasurer who retained their seats on top of its structure. Thus, the worst elections in the history of the Egyptian trade unions movement came to an end. These elections were held under the supervision of the Ministry of Manpower in violation of all measures of fairness, transparency or neutrality.
Article six of the Law states that unions only take guidance from the model bylaws issued by the Minister of Manpower, and the Ministerial Decision no. 36 for 2018 issuing these bylaws confirmed that union organizations have the right to put their own bylaws and may take guidance from the bylaws attached to that decision. However, unions were forced to adopt these bylaws made by the Ministry in order to be able to legalize their status.
These bylaws imposed electoral rules that may be considered a flagrant violation in themselves. For example, it made nomination to the presidency of the union separate from nomination to seats of the board. Moreover, it did not include rules for geographical and occupational proportional representation. These rules were left to be determined by the so-called Electoral Commission which is composed by the former board of the ETUF and headed by its president.
According to official statements, the number of enterprise-level unions joining the ETUF increased. However these unions are mainly newly established and registered professional unions formed at the city- or governorate-level for informal workers but don’t actually exist as unions. It is mainly made of nominal membership. Those workers had to join the union in order to receive a work permit, or issue a driving license or an ID. So, s/she is registered in the union without having a real relationship or role therein. Moreover, some administrative committees affiliated to the ETUF have legalized their status although the number of their members is less than 150, which is the minimum number of members in each union according to the Law.
The Ministry of Manpower estimated that the so-called union elections resulted in 80% change in the leaders of the enterprise-level unions. However, this high rate did not (and will not) lead to change in, or amend the structure, of the national confederation as the change in the composition of first-level unions is not translated into any meaningful changes in higher levels and does not affect the nature and structure of this organization. Wide disqualifications of many people who wished to nominate themselves narrowed options of choice, and hence options for real change.
The number of sectoral federations in the government-affiliated ETUF increased from 24 to 27. The three federations that managed to legalize their status (i.e. that of Unions of Workers in the Offices of Public Prosecution and Courts, of Unions of Workers in Public Transports, and of Unions of Workers in Health Sciences) joined the ETUF. No federation outside the government-affiliated ETUF was allowed to legalize its status.
Moreover, women were absent from the boards of unions affiliated to the ETUF although the new Trade Unions Law stipulates that the composition of the boards of unions should include suitable representation of women as much as possible (article no. 36 of Law no. 213 for 2017). Seats of the Board of ETUF's for the term of 2018-2022 don’t include any women. On the other hand, there are 26 women in the boards of 27 federations, including three women only in top positions while other women held positions in the secretariat for women and children affairs or the position of vice president for women’s affairs. The ratio of women in the membership of the boards of enterprise-level unions was less than 9% of the total number of members (1495 women out of 17188 members). Only 5% (80 women) managed to become presidents, most of them are in the sector of agriculture and irrigation, and the sector of finance and taxes. The rest of women leaders were scattered in the different unions in other sectors.
What actually happened were not elections but something of pseudo-elections. The purpose of which is to beautify the face of the Ministry of Manpower which is the representative of the Egyptian government in front of the ILO. Holding such elections also aimed at giving the impression that the government is fulfilling its obligations. However, what actually happened were violations either in the stage of elections or the preceding stage of the legalization process. These violations are against the recommendations of the Standards Committee of the ILO that the government pledged to respect by holding free and fair elections.
In spite of government pledges, union elections were held under full governmental supervision in cooperation with the leaders of the ETUF. So, the results were predetermined eve before the start of voting either for the enterprise-level unions, the sectoral federations, or the national confederation as the ministry of manpower managed these elections with the old mentality which sees merely one union that is the government-affiliated ETUF and unions belonging to it. The Ministry also ran the legalization process with the spirit of the old Trade Unions Law no. 35 for 1976.
Administrative Violations against Independent Unions
The old mentality of the Ministry of Manpower still violates the right of independent unions even though the Law guaranteed them the right to freedom of association. The situation of many unions is still pending without finalization of the procedures of their legalization. Moreover, some unions that managed to legalize their status were denied the right to hold elections by the administrative authorities. Other unions faced flagrant violation during the electoral process as some of the candidates to their executive board were removed from the lists, and at other times the only candidates to the presidency of the union was removed. The result is that these boards were not fully formed and their work is frozen.
Violations continue. Workers wanting to establish new enterprise-level unions according to the Law are still incapable of submitting the documents of their organization and obtaining the required letter to complete the establishment procedures. Unions that workers already managed to establish before elections did not acquire the necessary papers from the Ministry and could not open bank accounts or collect subscriptions.
Pursuant to new verbal instructions, the ministry adds more obstacles in front of independent unions that are not based on the Law or the Executive Regulations thereof. Such obstacles include the condition that unions – that are not established yet – have to have a premises and the union should submit its rent contract or title of property. It even went too far to the extent of conditioning that one of the employees of the Ministry has to attend the proceedings of the general assembly. This is direct intervention in the work of unions that is contradictory to basic principles of freedom of association. It even contradicts the Trade Unions Law itself.
First: Unions that held its constituent general assemblies, and completed all documentations and procedures of establishment, yet administrative authorities refuse their establishment
Article four of the Law on Trade Union Organizations and Protection of the Right to Organize no. 213 for 2017 stipulates: “the right to form trade unions… according to the rules and procedures established in this law the executive regulations and the internal bylaws of these organizations.”
Article ten of the same law states that establishment of workers trade unions on the basis of democracy is a right guaranteed by Law. Legal personality of these organizations is established since their submission of the required documents with the authorized administrative bodies and they can freely practice their activities since then.
The Law also determines how the foundation documents of unions are to be submitted and registered with the administrative bodies. Article 18 of the Law stipulates that the constituent general assembly of the union being established elects the administrative board of the union, which in turn elects the secretariat of the union. This secretariat selects one of the members of the board to submit three copies of the following foundation papers within 15 days of the date of election of the board by the assembly:
A list of the names of the founders of the union including the names, surnames, National ID number, age, address, occupation, and employer of all founding members signed by each member of them.
The bylaws of the trade union, provided that they are signed by the members of the administrative board authenticated by the competent notarization office.
The minutes of the meeting in which members of the administrative board are elected, and the representative of the secretariat in submission procedures is selected.
Lists of the names of the members of the administrative board and the secretariat, as well as title, age, occupation, address, and employer of each one of them.
The competent administrative body writes a report of the submission of foundation documents. It hands an authenticated copy thereof to the representative of the union. It also hands him/her official letters to the bank chosen by the union in order to open its bank account; to the Civil Affairs Authority to approve the stamps of the union; to the General Organization for Government Printing Offices to publish the bylaws of the union and the submission report in Al-Waqaee' Al-Masreya.
However, Directorates of Manpower (which are the competent administrative authorities) refuse the submission of the documents of the unions that are being established although they were completed pursuant to the Law. They justify this practice by stating that they don’t have instructions from the Ministry to accept the submission of the documents of trade unions established independently from the ETUF. This happened with the Union of Workers in Leoni Company, and the Union of Workers in Alexandria Clothing Company.
Second: Unions that were established or legalized their status, yet administrative authorities refuse to hand them the necessary letters for the administration of their work
Directorates of Manpower also refrain in some cases from handing the letters that enable unions to administer their work although they were established and their foundation documents are submitted in May 2018, i.e. more than seven months ago.
In the beginning, administrative bodies explained these practices by the need to wait until union elections are conducted. Then, they stated they did not receive instructions from the Ministry to hand these letters. Moreover, some directorates tried to force enterprise-level unions that are independent from the ETUF to join it. This happened with the Union of Workers in Education in Qena as the Directorate of Manpower asked its representative to reach an understanding with the ETUF. Likewise, the following unions did not receive letters that enable them to administer their work: the Union of Workers in Qous Education Department, the Union of Workers in Luxor International Hospital, the Occupational Union of Small Farmers in Beheira, and the Union of Small farmers in Beni Suef.
Third: Refusing to enable unions to hold their general assemblies or refusing to consider the decisions of their general assemblies valid
According to article 30 of the Law no. 213 for 2017, the general assembly of the trade union organization is the highest authority which formulates its policies and supervises all its affairs, according to the rules and regulations specified in its bylaws. In particular, it has the following powers: …(e) elections of the members of the administrative board of the union by method of direct secret vote. (f) withdrawal of confidence from all or some of the members of the administrative board or from its secretariat…. The general assembly of the union must hold a regular meeting at least once a year. It may convene in special session based on the request of the president of the board, two thirds of the board members, or one third of general assembly members.
Moreover, unions - according to the provisions of article 64 of the Law - have the right to draw up their own bylaws and administrative and financial regulations, and elect representatives in full freedom in accordance with the provisions of this Law. They have the right to regulate their affairs, manage their activities, and formulate their programs of work. Public authorities refrain from interferences that restrict this right or hinder its lawful practice.
According to article seven of the Executive Regulations of the Law, administrative authority or the competent ministry is prohibited from dissolving or suspending a union or restricting its right to draw up its bylaws and rules, freely elect its representatives, regulate and run their activities, or formulate its programs of action.
Nevertheless, some unions face obscure situations the reason of which is that the election of their administrative boards was not conducted on the times determined by Ministerial decision no. 37 for 2018. Thus, their situation is still suspended until now.
Based on their inherent right to elect or recall their representatives, these trade unions suggested to hold emergency special session to elect their administrative boards (and they may be temporary) so that these organizations practice their activities and roles. Although the Ministry of Manpower gave its verbal agreement to this, its Directorates refuse to enable these unions to hold their general assembly meetings. They also refused to approve the decisions they take if they are convened, and so they refuse to hand their representatives the necessary letters for the management of their work.
This situation is faced by a number of organizations including the following: the Occupational Union of Workers in Drivers’ Services in Al-Qalyubeya, the Union of Fishermen in Domyat, the Union of Workers in the Clubs of the Suez Canal Authority, the Union of Workers in Real Estate Taxation Authority in the governorate of Al-Fayoum, the Union of Workers in Real Estate Taxation Authority in Al-Qalyubeya, and the Union of Workers in Real Estate Taxation Authority in Al-Ismailia.
Fourth: Forcibly Joining the ETUF
Article four of the Executive Regulations of Law no. 213 for 2017 stipulates that every trade union organization has a legal personality that is independent from other unions, and that each union has the right to join or leave federations, or practice its activities solely without joining any other union.
The right to join or leave federations of unions is the right and power of the general assembly of the union alone. However, the members of the general assembly of the Union of Workers in Real Estate Taxation Authority in Suez were surprised to find that the board of their union decided to join the ETUF-affiliated Sectoral Federation of Unions of Workers in Finance, Taxes and Customs. In spite of the signatures of more than two thirds of the members of the general assembly to refuse this decision which was taken in their absence and against their will, and of the request of more than two thirds of the members of the general assembly to hold an emergency special session to decide in this regard and propose a vote of no confidence in the board for violating the Law and the bylaws of their organization, the Directorate of Manpower in Suez insisted to ignore the will of the general assembly and its decisions, and refused to enable it to convene.
Fifth: The situation of a number of union organizations is still suspended and their status is not yet legalized
On the legal date for the legalization of the status of independent unions, many unions had submitted their applications including all required data and attached thereto all necessary documentations. However, they could not legalize their status and the Ministry of Manpower did not present any plausible justification or reason based in fact or law for refusing the legalization of the status of these unions, although other similarly situated unions were legalized based on similar document and sometimes without submitting these documents at all.
Heavy pressures continue to be exerted on unions in order to make them join the government-affiliated ETUF. This is flagrant violation of freedom of association and the right to organize. This also violates article 76 of the Constitution of Egypt which guarantees the right to freely establish trade unions, and of course ILO Convention no. 87.
These suspended unions include: the Independent Sectoral Union of Workers in Real Estate Taxation and 11 first-level unions of workers in this sector in 11 governorates; the Union of Workers in Alexandria Library; the Union of Workers in Telecom Egypt; the Union of Workers in the Educational Department of East Mansoura.
Faced by these restrictive practices of the Ministry, forty first-level unions submitted a memo to the Ministry of Manpower on the 5th of August 2018 complaining from prejudice against them, and from the suspension of their situation in way that prohibits them from practicing their activities. They affirmed that they are being pressured into joining the ETUF, and demanded holding an investigation in their complaints and letting them complete their formal requirements, and the recognition of their legal personality and rights arising from it.
The officials of the Ministry received the memo of the unions, and stated that they are ready to organize a meeting with them for studying their complaints. However, nothing was done by the Ministry except ignoring and procrastination until now.
In an interview with Al-Ahali Newspaper published on Wednesday the 29th of August 2018, the Minister of Manpower stated that the Ministry is about to send a notification within days to all unions that did not legalize their status so that they immediately start to take the necessary procedures to legalize their statuses or start a new process of foundation for their organizations according to the new Trade Unions Law no. 213 for 2017 and its Executive Regulations or they will be considered non-existent. This statement astonished the unions whose statuses are suspended as they already submitted all the required documentations that other unions submitted for their legalizations but the Ministry of Manpower did not present any plausible justification or reason based on fact or law for refusing to legalize their situation. On the contrary, the Ministry just ignored them and even refused to meet them.
In fact, these organizations don’t refuse to be reestablished if there are sufficient guarantees to retain their rights and money. However, there are no such guarantees even for organizations that managed to legalize their status and receive a certificate to this effect from the administrative authority as they faced huge difficulties in regaining their bank accounts and money.
The Ministry tends to form administrative committees in the unions in which elections did not take place in order to conduct executive tasks. This procedure is at least bizarre, if not completely incorrect, as the Law and the Executive Regulations thereof did not impose a particular date on unions in which elections should be held and may not be held in other dates. The Law does not oblige unions to remain without administrative boards and be run by appointed administrative committees until general union elections are held throughout the country.
According to the Law, new unions are established at any time and their general assemblies should freely elect administrative boards that enjoy all powers. Unions have the right to “draw up their own bylaws and administrative and financial regulations, and elect their representatives in full freedom… Public authorities refrain from interferences that restrict this right or hinder its lawful practice.” (article 64 of the Law). In particular, the general assembly of the union has the right to (e) elect the members of the administrative board of the union by method of direct secret vote… withdrawal of confidence from all or some of the members of the administrative board or from its secretariat” (article 30 of the Law. Moreover, if the number of members in the administrative board of the Union or its secretariat decreased to less than half for any reason, the board has to invite the general assembly to hold by-elections within a maximum of 15 days, provided that new members continue for the remaining period of the term of the existing board (article 44 of the Law).
So there is no such a thing as administrative committees pursuant to the Law. There are general assemblies that freely elect administrative boards of their organizations. So, from where these conditions come if the Law does not include them! The Ministry and its Directorates do not provide any answer to this basic question. The answer they always give to any questions is “instruction”!
Suspended organizations are organizations that existed for years in which thousands of workers are organized, and that practice their activities and use their money via bank accounts. Denying these facts and destructing the legal status that these organizations gained are abuses and violations of rights that should be guaranteed in order to preserve stability of society.
Abusive Practices against the Right of Workers and Labour leaders
The months of the past year witnessed the continuation of prosecution and violations against labour leaders and workers demanding their lawful rights. Sayeda Fayed and Wagdy Al-Sayed from the Nurses Union were put into prison. Tens of workers were arbitrarily dismissed, and lost their only means of livelihood. No dialogue, collective bargaining or legal protection is available to workers if they practice their lawful social and economic rights. Due to lack of dialogue and collective bargaining between administrations of companies and workers, and amid the current economic crisis in which prices are rising and wages are decreasing in value, the government and companies’ management only resort to force and oppression without exploring means to resolve problems. Usually things get more complicated. Companies sometimes resort to manipulation and cheating of workers in order to escape their commitments and pledges to workers. This year, the issue of casual labour is rising. This year witnessed the laying off of a large number of workers especially cleaners, in addition to lack of occupational health and safety standards which led to the death of a number of workers.
Strike of the Workers of Ceramica la Beaute
On the 3rd of February 2018, workers of Ceramica la Beaute and Majestic Company in the Tenth of Ramadan City - that amount to 3500 workers - went on strike protesting the decision not to approve their annual raise and the cancellation of the compensation for working on vacation days.
The administration of the Company decided early February to cancel the compensation for working on vacation days consider working on the days of official vacations an ordinary work day. Two days later, workers were surprised when they were receiving their wages from the payroll that the annual raise approved since 2012 following a collective bargaining then was not included in the payroll which provoked workers who were not heard by anyone so they went on strike.
Workers demands were as follows:
(1) applying the annual raise previously agreed upon
(2) calculating official holidays for all workers as extra payment rather than allowance as specified by the Law
(3) approving a risk allowance of 250 EGP
(4) increasing the cost of living allowance from 200 to 300 EGP
(5) increasing the second shift allowance from 7 to 10 EGP and the third shift from 10 to 15 EGP
(6) if the vacation is coincidently on the day of weekly rest it is calculated as rest break as it used to be
(7) increasing food allowance from 150 to 300 EGP
(8) issuing a health card for workers similar to that made for workers in other factories belonging to the Group
(9) dissolving the union board and restructuring it, and formation of a steering committee made of honest members by election; AND
(10) paying workers of the factory their due share of annual profits.
Manager of the Security Department of the company tried to bring workers back to work without negotiations. However, his attempts did not work and workers continued the strike. One hour later, the administration disconnected electricity and gas from the building of the factory for no reason. The next day, the administration made reports against workers in the police station, then security forces started pursuing workers. On the 17th of February, seven workers were arrested. During the arrest of worker Mohamed Abdel-Hakeem, he jumped from the third floor which caused him severe fractures in thighs, spine and pelvis. He remained under guard in Al-Ahrar Hospotal in Zagazig.
The Public Prosecution in the Tenth of Ramadan City charged workers of incitement to strike and sabotage of the factory, and ordered their imprisonment for fifteen days pending investigation. Arrest warrants were issued for 20 workers of the company under the accusation of incitement of their colleagues to strike.
The Labour bureau of Tenth of Ramadan City issued a statement to declare the strike illegal which was refused by workers. A committee from the Directorate of Manpower had already visited the company’s premises and told workers that the annual raise they deserve is 7%, and tried to convince workers to stop the strike but their efforts failed because workers did not receive the arrears. In a negotiation session held later in the Ministry of Manpower, which was attended by Parliament member Sahar Ettman from the district of Mashtoul Al-Souq and a representative of the Minister of Manpower, workers gave up some of their demands in return for stopping the prosecution of their colleagues. The Ministry promised workers to communicate with the administration of the company in order to resolve the crisis. However, the administration refused to communicate with the Ministry, and asked workers to sign a no-strike pledge in order to receive their wages and arrears. it also asked workers to accept any measures that the company takes against the rest of their coworkers.
The strike triggered wide spread reactions. Parliament members Fayez Abo Khadra from the Manpower Committee and Sahar Ettman from the district of Mashtoul El-Souq declared their solidarity with the demands of workers. A delegation from the National Council for Human Rights visited the workers of the company in order to know their conditions. Many unionists also declared their solidarity with the workers of Ceramica la Beauté and demanded the freedom of workers and considered the government fully responsible of this situation because it does not guarantee the implementation of labour laws for workers of the factory who suffer rising cost of livelihood and low wages.
Worker who were prosecuted by security forces: Mohammed Nada – Rateb Abel-Sallam AL-Ballasi – Mohamed Abdel-hakeem Hashem – Mohamed Ahmed Seyam – Hussein Al-Sayed.
Workers of the National Company for Cement continue their strike demanding the operation of the company
On the evening of Sunday the 14th of January 2018, workers of the National Company for Cement (state-owned company) (around 2300 workers and employees) organized a sit-in in front of the office of the Chairman of Board of Directors of the company to call upon him to reintegrate the suspended lines into production, and not to execute the decisions of the Holding Company for Chemical Industries which decided to stop the largest two lines of production. The reason behind this decision was the claim that there are huge financial losses because of the consumption of natural gas as a fuel for the operation of kilns. However, the Chairman of the Board issued a decision to investigate with nine workers because of their participation in the sit-in.
The Holding Company decided in December 2017 to stop work in two kilns of the factory that made annual losses of one billion EGP. During the first quarter of the current financial year, the company made losses amounting to 240 million EGP compared to 4.4 million EGP during the same period of the last financial year.
During the last financial year, the company made losses of 582.3 million EGP compared to 119.9 million of the preceding year. Rising losses are due to the rising cost of productions including natural gas and electricity after the floating of the exchange rate.
A bid to develop the company was supposed to be made in the beginning of this year. However, Minister of Public Works Sector, Mr Khaled Badawy, believed that losses made by the National Company for Cement, while the cement sector in the Egyptian market is making profits, need radical solution.
The Minister ordered an urgent investigation into the financial irregularities in the National Company for Cement based on the report of the Accountability State Authority. He also thought it is necessary to move the factory away from the area of Helwan which has high population density as the environment is not healthy for residents of the surrounding area and the workers, and makes them vulnerable to dangerous diseases.
The Holding Company for Chemical Industries in early February 2018 assigned the administrative board of the National Company for Cement to prepare a detailed study of the transfer of the factory outside the area of Helwan, and to explore the possibilities of selling its land in order to make use of its value, along with preservation of the conditions of workers and their rights and considering labour restructuring, while the activities of the company are stopped except for grinding of clinker until the study is concluded and the inventory is consumed.
In fact, the administrative board of the Company decided to stop the operation of the company’s kilns, in addition to reducing the incentive from 400% of the basic salary to 75%.
So, workers of the Company organized another sit-in in front of the company’s office on Wednesday the 28th of February 2018 calling upon the board to re-operate the factory, use mazot until the purchase of a coal grinder, and keep their wages as they are so that they can face the burdens of livelihood under rising prices.
Workers decided to continue in their industrial action until they receive all their rights. A committee representative of workers was formed in order to communicate their demands to the administration of the Company. Primary among those demands are undoing those decisions that are harmful to workers, operating the whole factory, and paying them their full wages without deduction of the incentive.
Workers confirmed that they are not responsible for the company’s losses which are due to rising prices of natural gas and production inputs following the decision to float the Egyptian Pound, affirming that a large numbers of workers were laid off and they were not insured.
The House of Representatives sought to hold a meeting with the workers of the Company and negotiate with them on the 6th of March 2018 in the presence of members of the parliamentary Committees of Industry, Manpower and Human Rights. However, the meeting did not result in any reports or outcomes until now. It just produced promises and reassurances for hundreds of protesting workers.
Then, the Ministry of Public Works Sector issued a statement declaring that wages in the National Company for Cement in 2016/2017 amounted to 355 million EGP, and that the average wage of the worker is 12000 EGP per month which is double the average wage in other companies in the public works sector, and that the company’s debts to the Petroleum and Electricity Sectors Authority is 3.7 billion EGP.
This statement led workers to organize a new sit-in at the end of May 2018. Workers affirmed that most of their wages are consumed by monthly loans, and that they don’t amount to 12000 per month as mentioned in the statement of the Ministry regarding the conditions and losses of the company and the wages of workers. They also clarified that some of them worked in the Company for less than 10 or 15 years, and that they have nothing left after deduction of loan installments they received from banks except for meager amounts ranging between 50 and 200 EGP.
On Tuesday the 9th of October 2018, the Board of the Company decided to reduce the number of workers by half and to continue to pay the wages of workers. So, the number of workers following this decision was reduced to 1100 from 2300, and this number is supposed to gradually decrease. The extraordinary general assembly of the National Company for Cement decided the liquidation of the Company and the appointment of liquidators, and that the liquidation process is done within a year.
To confront this decision, a number of workers of the National Company for Cement filed a lawsuit before the Court of Administrative Justice in the Council of State no. 2985 for the 73rd judicial year demanding the suspension of the execution and cancellation of the decision to dissolve the Company, and consequently reoperation of the company and reinstating its workers and giving them their rights. The case was filed against the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Works Sector in their official capacities. It included that the successive administrations of the Company deliberately devastated it, and made it endure huge losses, and they wasted its money for no reason, which led to halting the operation of the Company and damaging the lives of its workers. The seventh circuit for investment affairs of the Court of Administrative Justice of the State Council decided on Saturday the 22nd of December 2018 to postpone the case till the session of the 26th of January 2019.
Workers of a cleaning services company protest being laid off by Tanta Educational Hospital
In front of Tanta Educational Hospital (known as the French Hospital), tens of workers of Queen Cleaning Service held a protest on Wednesday the 27th of June 2018 against the decision of the Hospital to dispense with the company’s services which led to the unemployment of 25 cleaners.
A number of workers in the Company submitted complaints to the Directorate of Manpower of the Governorate of Al-Gharbeya in which they explained that the “French” Hospital terminated the contract with Queen Cleaning Service - to which they belong - before the end of the period of the contract which was due on the 15th of March 2019.
Workers of BiscoMisr went into an open strike on Saturday the 21st of April 2018 to protest the decision of the administrative board of the Company not to pay the annual profit share for workers that were supposed to be paid and that used to be paid regularly on the basis of 45 days per year.
Two days before the strike, the board had a meeting headed by the Chairman of the Board, and Amr Farghaly; and the Managing Director, Ahmed Al-Bakry; and in the presence of Eman Al-Refaie, Manager of Human Resources. News spread that the Board took a decision in that meeting not to pay the annual profits that workers are used to. This led workers, amounting to 4000 in the factory of Al-Amereya, to launch a strike in protest to this decision regarding profits and low wages that average 1500 EGP per a worker who spent 15 years working for the Company.
A number of workers stated that the decision not to pay workers their profit share is not justifiable at all because the company make huge profits and already made big contracts for the coming years. So, the decision not to pay profits is not understandable, and merely aims at increasing the profits of the Company at the expense of workers who need to increase their income in order to cope with rising prices.
Chairman of the board threatened workers that if they do not go back to work no salaries or bonuses will be paid.
With the development of the crisis, workers of the Company’s branch in Alexandria started a strike on Sunday the 29th of April 2018 after the administration insisted on not paying the annual profit share. It even went on to try to prevent the escalation of the strike so it issued an administrative decision to give workers a paid leave starting from Monday the 23rd of April 2018 so that they are back to work on Sunday the 6th of May 2018.
In the meantime, the administration filed two police reports against 11 workers from the company’s Alexandria branch: Fahmy Mohamed Abdel-Aal Al-Sayed – Mohamed Abel-Aziz Al-Sayed – Saied Mohamed Abel-Kader – Mohamed Al-Sayed Abdel-Tawwab Al-Shenawy – Mohamed Abdel-Halim Ahmed – Fayza Abo Zeid Ibrahim – Abdel-Hai Mohamed Mohamed Hamad – Mosaad Adel Mohamed Ismail – Mahmoud Mohamed Abdel-Aal – Mohamed Abdullah Ismail – Hany Mohamed Abdel-Kader.
Reports had the numbers (3767 and 3995 - administrative repots - Second Raml Police Department – Alexandria) and were dated the 26th of April 2018. In these reports the administration accused workers of disruption of work, incitement to strike and harming the interests of the company.
The administration justified its decision by the fact that the general assembly did not convene and did not take a decision whether the company will pay the profits or not, and that going on strike action was a premature step on the part of workers. So, the company took those measures against workers whom it described as violators of the Law and the spirit of working in the company in the statement issued by the Managing Director. Workers replied that the decision taken by the board on Tuesday the 19th of April is the reason for escalation of events.
After the Company’s administration failed to disperse the sit-in which continued for a week, security forces arrested six workers from Al-Amerya Branch accusing them of organizing an unauthorized protest including: Mohamed Abdel-Baky (driver) – Hany Al-Boushy (driver) – Ahmed Abo Hashem – Samia Abdullah (production supervisor) – Alaa Abo Menna (Wafer maker).
Workers had to disperse the sit-in until the release of their colleagues. Two days later, after workers were back to work, the administration of the company adopted a policy of making three-month fixed contracts with workers. It also suspended seven workers for 60 days and prevented them from entering the company, in addition to arbitrarily dismissing three workers. Consequently, aggrieved workers headed to the Labour Bureau and filed a complaint against the administration of the Company.
Workers communicated with the Minister of Manpower who sent a letter to the administration of the Company telling it either to send an official of the dismissal or issuing a decision to reinstate these workers. However, the administration did not respond.
The Sectoral Federations of Unions of Workers in Food Industries held a collective bargaining session with BiscoMisr and its board in the presence of Mohamed Eissa, Deputy-Minister of Manpower, in order to resolve the crisis of the arbitrary dismissal of workers. A list of demands were put on the table including reinstating workers or approving a two-month per year settlement with them. However, the company asked for a two-week period in order to communicate with the mother company in the United States and reach a solution that is satisfactory to workers or the continuation of the dismissal decision and resorting to labour courts. Slow litigation procedures and lack of Labour Courts Law for dismissal by court-orders encourage such companies on procrastination when it comes to reaching settlements with workers and dismissing workers without any deterrent.
FriCool Workers complain from delaying their salaries
Salaries of FriCool workers were delayed for more than four months. They did not receive the sums due to them except after exerting pressures. When they went to receive the salary of the month of July, they were surprised that the Company only gave them half the salary. When they refused to receive incomplete salaries, they were prevented from entering the Company’s premises unless they sign consent to receive half of the salary. This led the workers of FriCool Group for Engineering and Refrigeration in the Tenth of Ramadan City to submit a complaint on the 8th of August 2018 to the Labour Bureau of the Industrial Zone of the Tenth of Ramadan City because of the delay of their salaries post- July 2018.
The Company continued for four months to disseminate a state of fear and disappointment among workers regarding the possibility of selling the Company and laying them off. The administration of the Company also spreads the rumors that it has good relations with the Labour Bureau.
In the beginning, workers faced trouble with the Labour Bureau till they made a police report. National Security Agency and the director of the Labour Bureau in Tenth of Ramadan City started studying the problem which led the General Manager of the Company to apologize to workers for preventing them from entering their workplace.
The Financial Manager of the Company stated that there is financial delinquency in the company and salaries will be paid when there is sufficient liquidity in the Company without determining a date. He proposed to workers to pay half of a month’s salary for the time being with a promise to pay the other half when the financial situation of the Company improves.
The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Company denied that salaries of workers in the company are delayed for four months. He stated that the crisis of salaries merely happened during the past two months because the Company is having a financial hardship which led to the delay of the salaries for few days. The Manager of the Company pointed out that the financial hardship of the company will last from three to four months because the Company’s sales are seasonal. He affirmed that he had a meeting with workers who said they will be back to work until the other half of their delayed salaries are paid, and if they were not paid they will be back to strike.
Strike of the workers of Needle Craft Company in Shibin El-Koom demanding to raise their salaries
On the morning of Thursday the 9th of august 2018, around 800 workers from the factory of the Needle Craft Company for Readymade Garments in the Free Zone of the city of Shibin El-Koom in the governorate of Al-Menofeya organizes a comprehensive strike action demanding the improvement of their financial conditions, and protesting maltreatment by the administration.
Workers refused to enter the factory, and submitted a complaint to the Labour Bureau and to the administration of the Free Zone demanding the adjustment of their salaries to the hard living conditions like other factories. They also demanded the removal of the Production Manager of the Company because of his continuous excesses against workers, as well as the cancellation of the unpaid extra working hour which is contradictory to Labour Law, and the establishment of social and health insurance for all workers, along with improvement of work environment and treatment of workers.
Strike action came after workers’ attempts to communicate their lawful demands of improvement of financial conditions and raising of their salaries which start from 800 EGP for assistants, 1000 EGP for production workers, and 1500 for machine technicians.
A number of foreign workers, mostly from Bangladesh, work in the Company. The Pakistani administration of the Company employs them. Their salaries are higher than that of the rest of workers as they range from 200 to 300 USD.
Worker of EverGrow for Specialized Fertilizers in Al-Sadat City demand improvement of protection equipments
Hundreds of workers of the factory of EverGrow for Specialized Fertilizers in the Seventh Industrial Zone of Al-Sadat City staged a sit-in on the morning of Sunday the 2nd of September 2018 demanding the improvement of civil protection equipments after the death of a worker called Mohamed Fawzy during the second shift of the factory because of the fall of a winch on him.
Protestors demanded the Ministry of Manpower to make sure that civil protection equipments are available in the workplace in order to guarantee the right of workers in a safe work environment.
Prosecution of five teachers because of their objections to the new educational system
Five teachers dared to express their objection to the new educational system and the statements of the Minister of Education. The result was a campaign of prosecution against these people that started with a report filed by the Minister of Education to the police by himself, and reached the arrest of some of them from their homes and others during their filing of a report against the new system. Four of them were later released on bails that amounted to 30,000 EGP while charges against them are still being pending, the fifth teacher is still in prison pending investigations waiting for his next hearing by the Public Prosecution.
The five teachers are: Dr. Mohamed Zahran – Ahmed Saieed – Samier Al-Gharieb – Yehya Al-Menshawi - Hossam Al-Zamlie. Four of them were released pending continuation of investigation of the same cases. However, teacher Hossam Al-Zamlie – who was arrested from his home in Suez on the 9th of September 2018 – is still imprisoned in Agroud Prison in Suez and he is charged with incitement and membership in an unlawful organization, usage of social media to cause chaos and disruption of public peace.
Before he was arrested, Dr. Mohamed Zahran, the Education Expert, was suspended from his work, for three months while being paid half of his salary for criticizing the new educational system and some of the minister’s decisions, pursuant to a decision taken by the Ministry. Zahran and two other teachers, Yehya Al-Menshawy and Samier Al-Gharieb – were arrested on the 9th of September 2018 during their presence in the office of the Public Prosecutor in Cairo to submit an official report accusing the Minister of Education, Tarek Shawky and other officials in the Ministry accusing them of deliberately wasting public money in the new educational system.
On the 12th of September 2018, the advisory circuit of the Court of Azbakeya decided the release of teachers Samier Atteya Mohamed Al-Gharieb and Yehya Mohamed Mostafa Al-Menshawy pending investigations in the case no. 12657 for 2018 Azbakeya Misdemeanors Department on a bail of 5000 EGP each, while it decided the continuation of the imprisonment of Mohamed Zahran for another 15 days.
18 days later, Zahran was released on a 10000 EGP bail pending further investigation in the case no. 12657 for 2018 Azbakeya Misdemeanors Department to be astonished to find himself accused in another case from which he was later released on another bail of 10000 EGP because of a report that accuses him of calling others to demonstrate.
Minister of Education submitted in person a report against teacher Ahmed Saieed Abdel-Samad (Science teacher - age 46) accusing him of libel and slander via a post attributed to him on Facebook based on a screenshot of this post.
Cairo Appeal Prosecution asked Ahmed Saieed some questions about his opinion in the new educational system. Then, it accused him of dissemination of false news that may disrupt public peace. Although there is no concrete evidence against the defendant who refuted the screenshots presented by the minister of education, the prosecution decided on the 26th of September 2018 to detain Ahmed Saieed for four days pending investigations. Ahmed Saieed had been subjected to administrative interrogation for the same incident and was subjected to an administrative punishment by deducting two months from his salary although he denied this act.
The Appeals Judge of Imbaba Court decided to release Ahmed Saieed on a bail of 1000 EGP on the charges of libel and slander against the Minister of Education in the case no. 33 for 2018 exclusive - investigation - Cairo Appeals Prosecution.
Strike of the workers of Unionaire: the employer is not responding
Workers of Unionaire Group, the branch of Sixth of October City, held a strike action on Wednesday the 17th of October 2018 demanding a response to their demands of raising wages and fixation of monthly incentives.
The company has seven factories in which there are around 7000 workers. All of them are in the area of October. Average salary of the worker is 1500 EGP, in addition to a production incentive ranging from 150 to 200 EGP that is paid to workers on weekly basis, and represents 65% of the comprehensive salary, and the owner of the factory stopped paying it during the past year.
The investor decreased the annual raise to become 15%, and refused to pay five grants that are usually paid at the occasions of the two feasts of Islam, Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday, start of the school year, and the month of Ramadan.
Before going on strike, workers tried to communicate their demands to the owner of the Company to pay the overdue incentives. However, instead of responding to their demands, he called National Security forces for workers, threatened them and refused to negotiate with them.
Workers decided to enter an open strike inside the six production lines as a response to the administration’s arrogance and irresponsiveness to their demands. The administration notified security apparatuses of the strike and claimed that there is sabotage taking place inside the factory. Security forces came to the location of the strike but found no sabotage, asked the workers about their demands and left immediately.
The administration did not give any response to workers since the start of their strike action, although work in the production lines of air conditioners, washing machines, refrigerators, stoves and glass is stopped.
Workers demanded the adjustment of salaries in the following terms: the minimum salary is 3000 EGP; fixing the monthly incentive at a minimum of 600 EGP and a maximum of 800 EGP per month; annual profits as two months at minimum and three months at maximum; separation of incentives from salaries; determination of the annual raise by 20% of the salary; approval of annual grants in the two feasts of Islam, Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday, start of the school year, and the month of Ramadan.
Workers also demanded making extended contracts for technicians who already worked for the company for two years; refraining from deducting casual leave from the incentives as they are a basic right to the worker; adjustment of working hours to be from 8:15 am to 5:15 pm; refraining from delaying salaries after the beginning of each month, provision of material necessary for production; and changing the bank from which workers receive their salaries and financial dues.
The Company replied in a statement written in the presence of representatives of the Board and the Vice-President of the Sectoral Federation for Engineering Industries that “it is committed towards workers with what is written in the employment contract, taking into consideration that the minimum wage for workers in the company is 1500 EGP staring from January 2018”. Concerning incentives, it stated that “what is being paid is not an incentive but rather installments of profit sharing bonus, taking into consideration that the Company paid more than 2.6 million pounds as payments of the profits of 2018”. Regarding the demand of annual profit bonus, the company stated that “profits are paid in advance. If the ratio of profits at the end of the year is higher than the amounts paid to workers, the rest will be paid to them.”
Regarding the demand of annual raise, the Company replied that it paid annual raise according to the Law, taking into consideration that the raise approved in the beginning of 2018 ranges between 20% and 25% of the comprehensive wages. It replied to the demand of approval of grants by stating that the Company pays these sums if its financial situation allows for this, taking into consideration that this is not obligatory pursuant to the Law.
Regarding the demands related to contracts with technicians, the Company stated that it makes fixed-term contracts, and in case of the two parties’ will to renew the contract a new fixed-term contract is made. The Company responded to the demand related to refraining from deducting casual leaves from the incentives by saying that there are not incentives and what is being paid is profit bonus based on the desire of workers, and it may change this system pursuant to their desire as well.
In response to the demand to provide materials necessary for production, the administration threatened workers that the Law will be enforced and there shall be deduction from salaries stating that “the company is obliged to provide materials available till the needed production is made, noting that in case this material is made available but the required production was not achieved, law will be enforced and deductions will be made from their salaries.”
Regarding changing the bank, the Company said that it already changed the bank before based on the desire of workers, and that it is not ready to change it one more time, especially that there are no problems with the current bank.
Imprisonment of Saeda Fayed and Wagdy Al-Sayed
On the dawn of Tuesday 23rd of October 2018, a force from Helwan Police Department raided the apartment of Sayeda Fayed, a prominent leader in the Nurses Union, in the neighborhood of economic housings in Helwan based on a warrant from the Public Prosecution to arrest and bring her and search her house. The police searched her house and confiscated her personal computer and mobile phone as well as some books. The police had arrested Wagdy Al-Sayed, a male nurse from Suez, on the 15th of October 2018.
These arrests were preceded by summons by national security prosecution in a number of governorates for ten nurses who were interrogated about their unionist activities before they are released from the Prosecution or the national security offices to which they were summoned.
Earlier, Sayeda Fayed and a number of nurses from different hospitals disclosed a number of corruption cases in the Professional Syndicate for Nurses. It has to be noted that a number of members of the Syndicate had started to take moves to improve the conditions of the Syndicate and demand the lawful rights of its members. They were also starting to prepare themselves for the coming elections of the Syndicate or form an independent union parallel to it.
It is important to note that Sayeda Fayed was nominated in the last elections against the head of the Syndicate, Kawthar Mahmoud who is the current president of the Syndicate although she has an executive position in the Ministry of Health which is contradictory to Law no. 213 for 2017 and its Executive Regulations.
Nurses complain a lot from the mismanagement of the board of the Syndicate of Nurses of its money in a way that is not in the best interest of its members. They also complain from the Syndicate’s abandonment of the members and refraining from defending them, as well as the control of the executive authority on the Syndicate and obstructing any attempts for democratic changes therein.
Sayeda was interrogated by State Security Prosecution in Helwan which issued a decision to arrest her for 15 days pending investigations in case no. 29377 for 2018 Helwan Misdemeanors, and she was supposed to be heard again by the Prosecution on the 4th of November 2018 to renew or stop her detention.
However, Helwan Misdemeanors Court, on the 10th of November 218, acquitted Sayeda from the charges of dissemination of false news on social media. However, she remained in detention for six days after the Court’s decision until national security officer agreed to execute the Court’s decision. Wagdy Al-Sayed was also released at the end of December 2018.
Approving the dismissal of Nagi Heidar and threatening his family with homelessness
On the 6th of November 2018, the Court decided in the case no. 121 Labour Issues in Mahalla to approve the dismissal of labour leader, Nagi Heidar, and to reject his appeal after four years of his dismissal from the Company. Nagi remains without a source of living for him and his family.
Nagi disclosed corruption issues in the Company of Misr Al-Mahalla for Spinning and Weaving starting from manipulation in the Company’s club contracts to contracts of cotton supplies to the Company, and including the corruption of the head of the Legal Affairs Department that investigations found him guilty of corruption and he actually repaid the amounts he took and had a reconciliation with the Company. Nagi also adopted the demands of his colleagues in Misr Al-Mahalla Company for Spinning and Weaving, and that is why he was chosen among the negotiating delegation as a representative of the workers of the Company in the 2012 collective agreement. This is supposed to grant him trade union immunity pursuant to article 120 of the Egyptian Labour Law no. 12 for 2003.
On the 13th of January 2015, Mahalla workers staged a strike action demanding the operation of the Company and confronting corruption. Their demands may be summarized in the following: confronting corruption in the Company; pumping investments in the company; paying the last installment of profit shares; establishing the financial cadre for workers; promoting workers whose promotions are stopped for years as promotions are confined to those workers that the higher administration is pleased with; and removal of the General Commissioner of the Company and president of the Holding Company.
Instead of conversation with workers in the interest of the Company, leaders of the strike were interrogated. Nagi was summoned for interrogation on the 21st of January 2015. Five days later. A decision to dismiss him was taken by the Company after 33 years of services in the same Company in spite of his trade union immunity pursuant to Labour Law as he was a member of the negotiation team in the presence of Dr. Ahmed Al-Boraie the then Minister of Manpower.
His family is now threatened with being kicked out from the impartment that belongs to the Company. So, punishment is extended to the whole family, which includes his wife, two sons and a daughter (two of whom are still students). In fact, there are more than 400 cases of early retirement and dismissal among others who have no current relation to the Company yet remain in these apartments. However, this is a flagrant case of bullying against a man whose only fault is fighting corruption based on documentations and adopting the demands of his colleagues in order to fully operate the Company and overcome losses.
Workers in Magawish Village &Resort are deprived from tenure
For the third time, around 320 workers from Magawish Touristic Village in Hurghada, which belongs to Misr Travel Company (a public works firm), organized a protest on the 18th of November 2018 demanding their appointment similarly to their colleagues who were appointed. This took place almost two months after the declaration of Rashad Refaie, President of Misr Travel Company, that Magawish Village will be closed mid-December 2018 and that comprehensive development will be started which will cost 2.3 million EGP and last from three to five years.
The company declared that it is not in need of casual workers in the Village after it will be closed in the middle of the following month and that it cannot pay their wages during the closure period as this will be considered waste of public money, and that there is no plan for moving them to another location following the closure of the village.
Workers in the Village are divided into two groups: those who are appointed and those who are day-labourers. Some of the appointed workers will be transferred to work in other hotels, while the rest will retire or take early-pension schemes. Day-labourers will be just laid off because there is no need for them after the closure of the village.
Workers believe they have the right to be appointed after 17 years of service in the Village, and that there are places for them to work in the Company which can include these workers.
Samir Nassar, the Managing Director for Financial and Administrative Affairs, declared that laying off these workers comes at the direct orders of the Minister of Public Works and asked journalists not to add fuel to the flame.
Tens of cleaners of the city and district of Talkha in the governorate of Al-Dakahleya gathered on Sunday the 9th of December 2018 in front of the premises of the Governorate of Al-Dakahleya protesting the delay of payment of meal allowances they are entitled to. This allowance is for 10 EGP per day and they did not receive it for nine months.
Workers knocked on all doors before they went on strike. However, the President of the City Council refused to provide their payments from the receipts of cleaning fees imposed on houses and shops. This led workers to gather in the yard of the City Council, and to refuse to go to work. They later transferred their protest in front of the Central Administration of the Governorate of Al-Dakahlea and demanded to meet with the Governor.
Sigma Pharmaceuticals in Al-Menofeya
A number of workers of the branch of Sigma Pharmaceuticals in Al-Menofeya protested on Sunday the 9th of December 2018 in front of the Governorate’s building in Al-Menofeya against the continuous delay of their monthly salaries since 2017, and their low salaries that were not increased since 2014.
The Governor of Al-Menofeya had a meeting with the protestors and promised them to study their complaints. Likewise, Deputy Minister of Manpower in Al-Menofeya affirmed that the Company will start paying part of the workers’ salaries and promised them that more than 100 workers who were fired will be reinstated. However, nothing actually happened.
The Board of the Company is still resisting the payment of monthly salaries since 2014. Sometimes, they are being paid after the 25th day of the month. Following the strike action of workers, the company started giving workers in the Production Department (around 600 workers) leave from work claiming that equipments are being maintained, and that workers will be told to return to work as soon as maintenance is done. Moreover, the Board of the Company forcibly moved considerable number of workers (around 114 men and women) to the company of Sigma Tech in the branch of October City, which led them to file a police report of this incidence in order to preserve their rights.
Workers of the Eastern Company strike in protest to decreasing their profit bonus
Workers of the Eastern Company for Tobacco (state-owned company) held a strike for three days starting from the 17th of December 2018 in protest to the reduction of profits bonus, and the reduction of last year’s profits bonus to 20 months instead of 23 months that used to be given to them because of the change of the status of their company to Law no. 159 regarding Joint Stock Companies.
The administration of the Company held a meeting with the representatives of workers in the enterprise-level union and the sectoral federation in order to study workers’ demands. The Company affirmed in a statement that it responded to some of workers’ demands while other demands are under consideration.
The general assembly of the Company had already approved a profits bonus for workers equivalent to 20 months one week before the strike. During the past year, company’s profits increased by almost 44.8% to amount to 4.2 billion EGP compared to 2.9 billion EGP the preceding year supported by its rising sales to 13.4 billion EGP compared to 10.4 billion EGP the preceding year, which is 27.2% increase.
Later, the Holding Company for Chemical Industries complied with the demands of workers of the Eastern Company and decided to raise the annual bonus to 25 months for the ending financial years in order to end the strike.
Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services
2 January 2019
 See CTUWS’ Report on Trade Union Elections 2018-2022 (The Absurd Scenario).