En- Chained Unions.. A Report on Violations of Right to Freedom of Association

Monday, January 25, 2016 - 21:10

On the eve of the Egyptian 25th January- Revolution, 
It was apparent for all who can see that the Egyptian workers can no longer live according to the presented equation: the prevalent minimum wage level which can hardly meet the needs of a single individual, the temporary labour contracts which prevailed the labour relations, the permanent organized jobs which were receding, the black labour relations which dominated the private sector, the public business sector which was depredated and its units were liquidated or privatized with thousands of their workers laid off, the social security network which collapsed with the collapse of the public sector, the unemployment rates which were ever growing, and the seasonal and informal  labour patterns which were escalating. 
The Egyptian workers - who were deprived for long years from their essential democratic rights to freedom of association- had started to challenge the legal constraints to form independent trade unions based on the actual situation on the ground and to its legal rights according to international agreements. 
The Government of Egypt had found great difficulties to evade its commitments to international labour standards in light of the continuous pressures of the International Labour Organization (ILO). The amendment of the Law on Trade Unions was “Required Immediately”!!. There was serious paradox between an official trade union  organization whose hypothetical life has expired and is awaiting a historical sentence to terminate it and the rising protest movement which aspires to break the yoke and to possess its own organization tools but is deprived of its right to organize its trade unions.
When the crisis of the whole Egyptian population exploded in shade of the corrupted regime, when categories of the population revolted on 25 January, 2011 refusing to live under unemployment, poverty and silence of the oppressed. When the revolution broke out, the workers were worthier to express their pains and call for their rights to change their conditions; they were worthier because their rights were more violated. Although they are the makers of life their share in national income shrinks day after day. In spite of their long history in participation in collective independent movements they became amongst the most categories deprived of the right to organize themselves.
Issuing the Trade Union Freedoms Declaration
On 12 March 2011, one of the Egyptian Spring days, in a press conference for Juan Somavia Director General of the ILO, Dr. Ahmed Hassan El Borae’i former Minister of Manpower- who had been recently appointed in this post- announced the Trade Union Freedoms Declaration.
The Declaration was the first urgent step to treat trade union positions, which reached a level of imbalance and contrast which could not be ignored or postpone. It was a quick and direct response to the calls for freedom and social justice which were echoed in the Squares and reflected obviously through labour movements which prevailed on the 9th and 10th of February 2011 while the “official Egyptian Trade Union Federation” was still confirming – in the workers’ name - its support to Mubarak’s regime !!
That spring Declaration was a goodwill announcement, a pledge to Egypt’s compliance with the international labour conventions, which it had ratified over half a century ago, and commitment by measuring up to the core international labour standards. Those commitments which had been re-claimed- seriously-prior to the revolution; thereby, it represented a crisis for the old tottering regime that was trying hardly, and seeking more time to avoid them. 
Stirring the stagnant waters
Although this Declaration has stirred the stagnant waters – by all means- , it was and is still insufficient to treat the imbalance and congestion at the labour arena. The Egyptian workers who looked forward to overcome the years of distress, corruption and tyranny are still practice their trade union rights under siege.
It is true that many things were moving fast. Egyptian workers managed during last year to establish hundreds of independent trade unions. Many of them knew their right-which they were deprived for several decades - and discovered their way to exercise this right. Many of them recognized their trade unions as their own organizations which they establish by their free will to defend their economic rights .. not subjugated to the state and its authorities and government. The democratic labour movement scored some success in promoting the principles of trade union freedom and elaborating the importance of establishing trade unions which encouraged  various categories– some of whom were far from the labour movement – to form trade unions in order to attain their rights and achieve their demands.
Serious challenges
In spite of those positive steps, very serious challenges are still confronting the Egyptian workers struggle to acquire their full and secure right to establish their unions freely, their ability to build their active and democratic trade union organizations. The onset of them is the failure to issue the law on trade union freedoms; or in other words, the failure to annul the law on trade unions (No. 35 for 1976 and amendments) which is still active with all its restrictions and defects.
Sixteen months passed after Mubark expulsion, fifteen months  passed after the declaration of the principles of trade union freedoms, but those freedoms are still being violated, and trade union rights are still enchained  as follows in this report.

Sunday, 3/6/2012
Violations of Right to Freedom of Association
Firstly: Direct violations 
[Practicing by collusion between government administrations, , some businessmen and ETUF leaders (such a business relationship which still exists both on the ground and under the table)].
El Zamil Steel Constructions Company: After depositing documents for establishing the union, the company director called members of the union’s executive council and asked them to apologize for the company management for establishing the union and to cancel the procedures taken for its establishment. He threatened to dismiss all the union members. Then he fired Tamer Mohamed the union’s secretary general and Mansour Abd el Tawab its treasurer after forcing them under armed threat to sign resignations !!
Cairo University: As soon as the documents for establishing the union were deposited, the administration started to oppress Abdalla Abd el Wanis president of the union. He was investigated and penalized seven times in one month. Then he was transferred from the university campus in Embaba to Sheikh Zayed City.
Wiser Ford Oil Services Company: Mohamed Shaker president of the union was fired as soon as the documents for establishing the union were deposited at the Ministry of Manpower.
Misr Helwan Spinning and Weaving Company (public business sector): Three labour leaders were subject to oppression as soon as they began to call for liberating their union. Hamzawy Mohamed Hamzawy was transferred from the company’s head office in Helwan to a different job in a branch at Al Azhar. Nady Qurany Mohamed was transferred from his job as head of a spinning section to a different job at the preparation sector. Mus’aad  Abd el Ghany Ibrahim was transferred from a cloth making section to office work and was not assigned any job.
The International Company for Coal and Nerolese: The company dismissed the union’s secretary general and other five members. 
Schlumberger for Petroleum Products: Four union members were dismissed. They are:
Essam Abu el Eneen, union president.
Mohamed Abd el Rahman Abd el Rahim, Secretary General.
Ayman Abd el Monem Mohamed, union member.
Hussam el Deen Mustafa, union member.
Petroment Maintenance Company (Alexandria): After depositing documents for establishing the union, the management transferred its president to the Western Desert, put him on a lower rank then he was suspended.
Suzuki Motor Company: The following eight union members were dismissed:
Mohamed El Sayed El Awady, president of the union. 
Sayed Ramadan El Tounsy, secretary general.
Ashraf Ahmed Gomaa, Assistant general secretary.
Emad el Deen Mohamed, Executive Council member.
Ula Mustafa Mahmoud, union member.
Heba Mohamed Mahmoud, union member.
Mustafa Ead Mansour, union member.
Mega Textile Company (Sadat City): Mohamed Abd el Nassir union president and Mohamed Hassan Executive Council member were dismissed together with three other union members. When the dismissed workers went with their colleagues to the headquarters of Menoufia Governorate to file a complaint, they were attacked by some policemen and some hired persons armed with electric sticks and knives. Thirty workers (men and women) suffered arm and leg fractions and different body, face and head wounds. They were carried to Shebin el Koum Hospital for treatment. Seven workers were suspended for two days. They are: Imam Ramadan Aly, Reda Ahmed Hasheesh, Karam Bushra, Ayman Ibrahim Aly, Tarek Ibrahim Abu Shady, Bahaa Kamal and Ahmed Abd el Aziz.
Maredithe Company (Someed Port): Aatef el Sayed Khedr union president was arbitrarily dismissed as soon as the union was established.
Aeropack Company (10th of Ramadan City): The workers went in strike for three days as from 20th September 2011 because the president of their union was prevented to enter the company. 22 other workers were dismissed. The management, headed by Mahmoud Solaiman forced Mandour Mustafa el Sayed union president and his deputy Hisham Mohamed to sign their resignations under armed threat.
International Textiles Company (10th of Ramadan City): Sayed Mahmoud Atiya (known as Sayed el Barhamtoushy) dismissed Ahmed Mahdy union president after forcing him to sign his resignation under armed threat.
Misr Al Hejaz Company (10th of Ramadan City): Investigation was made with Adel el Salawy union president and he was penalized.
Efry Medical Company (10th of Ramadan City): investigation was made with four executive union members and they were penalized. They are: Nader Helmy Mohamed, Khalil Abdel Halim Shreedeh, Mohamed Gamal Hamouda and Ayman Khairy Salem.
New Star Company for  Ready Made Clothes (Free Investment Zone of Port Said): Thugs armed with knives and firearms belonging to the factory owner attacked the workers. Mohamed Owais general secretary of the union had a gun shot and other face injuries.
Three members of the independent union of Cairo Public Transport Authority (governmental authority) were assaulted by followers of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation “ETUF” while they were in a meeting with the Chairman of the Authority on 1/3/2012. Adel el Shazly union president and Magdy Hassan Aly general secretary were injured. They went to Abassiya Police Center of the Authority to file a report. They were surprised to find one of the thugs who entered the police center and attacked them. Three workers suffered serious injuries without any interference from the police officers who witnessed the attack.

The Post Authority  (governmental authority): 
During the postal workers strike and sit in the Post Authority Headquarters that was continued thirteen days last March, the Authority chairman attacked physically Mohamed Ibrahim el Saftawy president of the independent union who was carried to the hospital for treatment. The union president together with 15 other trade union leaders were referred to the prosecution for investigation. They were accused of delaying work.
Again, a new strike was organized on the twelfth of May by 13 Postal workers independent unions because of the Authority’s disturbance of the last agreement (that concluded after previous strike). 
Then, the Authority chairman decided to refer hundreds of Postal workers from different Governorates [Beni Swiff, Kena, Helwan and Al Mahalla] to be investigated before the Administrative prosecution.
On the other hand, three Postal trade unionists in Mahalla were subpoenaed by the public prosecution. 
Investigations have been continued till now [the 3rd  of June, 2012]
Nile Company for Spinning and Textile (Sadat City)
On 9h of April 2012, the  third day of the workers’ strike, more than 40 thugs attacked the  workers inside the factory. Six workers  were injured. 50  workers were dismissed- four of them are trade union council members- and 170 workers were given a formal notice to be dismissed.
Egyptian Tax Authority
Following the protesting sit in that was witnessed on 20th March 2012, the General Manger of the Egyptian Tax Authority decided on 27th March 2012to ban temporarily 49 employees from their work in the two sections of the Egyptian Tax Authority [General Tax, and Tax on sale]. The decision stated that those employees should get only half of their salaries. The 49 employees who included many independent trade unionists were accused of delaying work. 
In response, the employees lunched a permanent in front of the Parliament to call for the cancelation of the decision. 
The employees sit in continued more than one month, and during its period the employees were subjected to a lot of violations and pressures, such as thugs. 
Recently, the Administrative Court judged to vacate the Administration’s decision and the workers returned to their work.
Secondly: Serious battle with the trade union organization of the old regime [ETUF]
The ETUF leaders have fought strongly to keep the restrictions imposed by law on the core right to establish free trade unions. Hussein Megawer the former president of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation “ETUF” was put in jail because he was accused of participation in killing protestors at the “Camel Battle”. The cabinet of ministers issued a decision to dissolve ETUF’s board of directors. The decision enforced court sentences issued five years ago judging the illegality of the board of directors. As a result, ETUF organized a fierce campaign against the right to establish free trade unions. 
In that campaign ETUF used its full force and mobilized its allies from Mubarak’s supporters, government authorities, the public business sector and even some businessmen. The ETUF tried to renew its power and to regain its balance by forming a new board of directors which contained some members of the Temporary Committee,- which was formed to manage ETUF temporarily after dissolving the old board-.
The actual exercise of the announced trade union freedom faces serious difficulties and violations committed by the devilish alliance between the ETUF, government authorities, which many of their leaders remained without change and a number of businessmen and private companies.
Some government administrations and public business sector managements continued to cut off union subscriptions arbitrarily from the workers’ salaries and transfer these amounts to the general trade unions and the ETUF. Others refuse to accept workers’ applications to stop discounting these union fees from their salaries or to transfer the fees to their independent unions; and if they accept, they put certain conditions, which cannot be fulfilled.
Although The Egyptian Democratic labour Movement was keen- to address its message to the Egyptian businessmen -on the Second of March 2012- in particularly, those who are aspiring to establish democracy in Egypt and seek the development of the Egyptian society-, invite them to exercise positive negotiations, and call for removing all the barriers for social negotiations... 
Although, The Egyptian Democratic Labour Movement submitted- on the Fourteen of February 2011-, to the Egyptian Authorities- its proposal to establish a temporary Conductive Council which includes representatives of the social parts to manage social negotiations regarding the main labour problems....
In spite of those initiatives, the Independent Democratic Labour Movement hasn’t found the appropriate response. The Independent unions’ right to collective bargaining is denied and violated- especially- by the Governmental and Public Sector Administrations;
Many companies and enterprises still refuse dealing with the independent unions or negotiate with them. They take penalizing procedures against these unions, transfer their leaders to remote places or apply different penalties on them. Such managements of public and private companies are encouraged in this conduct by lack of legal protection for trade unionists whose organizations are not subject to the provisions of law No. 35/1976.
Many public sector workers are still unable to withdraw from the arbitrary membership in ETUF’s trade unions due to the linkage between this membership and certain benefits such as medical treatment for the member’s family and complementary insurance funds. The workers were paying subscriptions in these funds for long years and cannot do without their insurance dues connected with this membership. In addition, joining the membership of ETUF’s trade unions is a precondition for obtaining professional driving licenses and some work permits.
Believing that they are the owners of ETUF’s accumulated wealth and assets because they came from their contributions and suffering for long years, many public sector workers still seek means to take these irrevocable dues.
The ETUF’s leaders continue to present to the government memorandums – one after the other – against the government administrations that stop to discount workers membership fees and do not transfer them to ETUF. These administrations are threatened by legal procedures to be taken against them. ETUF still refuses to recognize the legality of the independent trade unions. ETUF leaders say: “the so called independent unions which were established under the revolution legality have become illegal after the election of the parliament and the presence of the current law on trade unions which stipulates that documents for establishing trade unions should be deposited at ETUF and the Ministry of Manpower, and consequently the formation of independent unions is illegal” !!
Many times, when an independent union makes a formal petition to the Manpower Ministry [or one of its administrations] in order to facilitate a collective bargaining with the Employer, it is asked to invite the “Official General Union” [ETUF union] to the bargaining session, and sometimes surprised by the Official General Union presence. In many cases the independent trade unionists has to struggle in defence to manage the bargaining independently.[It repeated especially in Alexandria].
Some examples;
Drinking Water and Draining Company in Al Gharbya Governorate 
             {General Business Sector]
On the Seventeenth of May 2012,Mohamed Abd El Gwadd, the President of the independent union began a hunger strike to protest against the Company’s Administration that still cut the trade union fees from workers salaries regardless their will to the “official General Union”[ ETUF union], and refused to negotiate with the independent union. 
Abd El Gwadd hunger strike continued 5 days when the solidarity campaign that was organized with him resulted in the Manpower Ministry middling to stop the administration violations.
Governmental Social Insurance Funds in Ismailia Governorate
Although the members of the independent union that established and registered on 15/11/2011 are representing around 98% of the authority administration employees, the administration denied this union’s right to represent their members in the negotiation bodies.
The Independent union submitted their complaint of this situation to the Social Insurance Ministry on 11/2/2012, but they didn’t receive an appropriate response.

Thirdly The Military Decree No. 34/2011 on Criminalizing Strike: 
In the first application of the Military Decree No. 34/2011 on Criminalizing Strike, the military court ruled in the case No. 2535/2011 / Military Misdemeanor one year imprisonment (with stay of execution) for five workers from Petro Jet Company who were accused with others according to the court sentence “of sitting-in during emergency case in front of the Ministry of Petroleum and prevented the Ministry from performing its functions”. The five workers are: Ahmed el Sayed, Khamees Mohamed, Mahmoud Abu Zeid,  Mohamed Ibrahim and Mohamed Kamal.
Eleven workers of West Alexandria district were judged in absentia with one year imprisonment (with stay of execution) according to the Military Decree No. 34/2011.
Fourthly: in absentia Judgment of Six Months Imprisonment for Kamal Abbas
According to legal provisions which should be annulled because they contravene with the freedom of expression and human rights, On Sunday 26th February 2012 Helwan Misdemeanor Court judged in absentia with six months imprisonment (with stay of execution) for Kamal Abbas general coordinator of CTUWS in the Case No .988/2012 / Misdemeanors / Helwan because, according to the reference decision, he “insulted the public officer Ismail Ibrahim Fahmy the acting president of ETUF” !! while he was delivering ETUF’s speech during the 100th Session of the International Labour Organization. 
The ILO Conference witnessed on Thursday 9 June 2011 a hot confrontation between the two Egyptian sides [the ETUF which belongs to the former regime on one side and the CTUWS and the independent union on the other side]. Kamal Abbas CTUWS’ general coordinator interrupted the acting president of ETUF while he was delivering his speech and said that he should not continue representing the Egyptian workers and that he had no right to do so after his collaboration in the plot of February 2, 2011 known as the “Battle of the Camel”.
Although one year have passed after the Trade Union Freedoms Declaration, the court sentence was based on considering “ETUF’s president a public officer” ; a fact which denotes that the reversed situations are still going on and that the elements of the former regime – including tyranny and freedom violations – are still reproducing themselves

Fifthly: The Supreme Constitutional Court Judgment
On Sunday, 1st April 2012 the Supreme Constitutional Court issued its statement No. 220 for the year 19/ juridical chronology that stated that Article 11 of the Ministerial Decree No. 146 for the year 1996 contradicts the constitution.
This unconstitutional article was organizing the establishment of the branch elections committees that run the trade union elections in the industrial sites. According to the Constitutional Judgment, establishment of those committees was objecting the Egyptian law itself.
This constitutional Judgment emphasized the rule of the Administration court regarding its judgments of the fruitlessness of the trade union elections in 2001 and 2006 because of running those elections without judicial supervision. 
By virtue of this constitutional court- this time-!!, all of the ETUF councils and structures are invalid. 
Nevertheless, and in spite of the absolute enforceability of the constitutional judgments, as a final termination, the Constitutional Judgment in this regard has,’t been implemented yet, and the ETUF structures that were nominated in November 2006 are still considered- by the Egyptian Authorities – representatives of the Egyptian workers !!
Recently, Egypt has witnessed big events, serious top stories, things have been running very quickly, but the infamous law on trade unions No. 35/1976 is still in force and the Egyptian case file is still open before the ILO Committee on the application of ILO’s conventions and recommendations pending the answers of the questions addressed to the Egyptian government regarding its observation of the core labour standards.
Again, the commitment and enforcement of labour standards become overdue without any more delay.
Again , we call for issuing the Law on Trade Union Freedoms now and before it is too late.  We emphasize that its issuance is not only a response to the Egyptian Revolution’s calls and to the demands of the Egyptian workers who started the zero count for the regime’s collapse four years before the revolution of January 2011, but also an indispensable necessity for moving towards social justice which cannot be attained without enabling the societal parties to express their interests and negotiate on them or without possessing the organizational tools necessary for social negotiations, i.e. the genuine independent trade unions.

The Egyptian Democratic Labour Congress (EDLC) 
The Egyptian Democratic Labour Congress is an Egyptian Federation consists of 209 unions added to more than 50 unions-not registered yet-
EDLC is open for all the Egyptian workers without The Egyptian workers without discrimination, stretches its hands to all of them who wish to establish their active independent unions and to all who work with it to liberate trade union rights from the shackles which restrained them for long bitter decades and to all who are biased to the right of the Egyptian workers to establish their trade unions freely and struggle to put fair labour standards into effect. The Congress is inspired by the history of the Egyptian trade union movement which was deep-rooted before the beginning of the 20th century and is based on a decades-long struggle against oppression, depredation, impoverishment and marginalization; and it commemorates the martyrs, strugglers and labour leaders who sacrificed their lives in defence of democratic trade union rights for the Egyptian workers.
EDLC Mission:
Complete alignment with the Egyptian workers’ right to establish their trade unions freely and without any trusteeship independent from the state, businessmen and political parties); struggle for the full achievement of this right, removal of all the legal restrictions imposed on this right during the past decades and removal of all administrative restrictions which restrict the exercise of this right.

Complete alignment with the fair labour standards as provided by the International Labour Conventions, struggle for their proper implementation in our country and action to guarantee the Egyptian workers’ right to defend their interests and rights through strike, collective negotiations and collective labour agreements.

Adherence to the principles of trade union freedoms including non discrimination between the workers for any reason, the workers’ guaranteed right to establish trade unions, the right to join / withdraw from a trade union (if multiple) and the right of trade unions to form and withdraw from federations. The founders of this Congress reject the deprivation or exclusion from any trade union right, refuse coercion to join or withdraw from trade union membership or forcing any trade union to  join or withdraw from an existing federation.  

The founders of this Congress shall do their best for the sake of strong and effective trade union unity and act for building a strong and effective trade union organization (federation / confederation) which combines considerable percentage of the workers categories in the main labour sectors,

The Congress calls for immediate issuance of the law on trade union freedoms which guarantees for the Egyptian workers all the afore mentioned rights. The Congress calls upon the Egyptian ,society with its democratic and political powers, to consolidate with it in order to achieve these demands. The Congress emphasizes the pivotal importance of trade union rights in building and developing the democratic Egyptian society, establish trade unions to activate societal negotiations and achieve social justice which is necessary for social equilibrium and stability. The Congress, together with the participating civil society organizations will organize a vast lobbying campaign calling for immediate adoption of this law.

Egyptian Democratic Labour Congress (EDLC)
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/edlc.labourcongress 
88 Al-Qasr Al-‘Einy Street, Floor 1, Apartment 7, Cairo
Telephone: 01283065685,01016303130  , 0227962564
E-mail edlc.labourcongress@gmail.com 

Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services
The Centre for Trade Union services was born from the womb of the Egyptian Working class movement as a reflection of a growing democratic trend which adopted the demand for an independent organization for the Egyptian Workers. This trend took the initiative to develop the necessary tools for the workers movement towards this demand outside of the formal Trade Union Organization whose separation from the body of the workers their needs and movement.
The Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services (CTUWS) is an Egyptian non-governmental organization established in March 1990 by some labor leaders and activists guided by their experience in the Egyptian labor movement. They vowed to meet the urgent need to form an independent organization that advances and supports the needs of workers in a democratic manner, provide direct support and services to the workers and fill the void created by the “official” trade union organization which failed to achieve its fundamental obligations.

To assist and support the development and empowerment of an independent workers trade unionist movement…from the vision that the ability of the workers to wrestle their right to organize and achieve their economic, social and political rights is a critical and an essential prerequisite to achieving genuine participatory democracy and sustainable development.
In order to achieve the above the CTUWS works through a vision and a strategy centered on empowering the workers own initiatives to organize and defend their interests and rights. 
This approach resiliently renounces and refuses the claims of representing or working on behalf of the workers, or monopolizing their movement or utilizing it for narrow partisan political aims. In addition the CTUWS sees as part of its core mission its assistance in the development of the concept of social negotiations as a democratic mechanism. A mechanism whose aim is to achieve a balance between the conflicting interests in society, which enables the different social groups and sectors in society to express their voice, represent their interests and apply its influence in a way which enable it to negotiate with other social sectors and groups around these interests.
To support the implementation of just work standards.
To assist the right of the Egyptian workers to their independent forms of organization through supporting workers actions in this direction, justifying their just demand and pushing it on the national and international agenda and discourse.
To provide direct support for the workers to form their independent organizations.
To assist in the development of a just and democratic society 
To assist in the development of the conceptual framework of the trade union workers movement to guarantee its consistency with the principals of equality, democracy, and opposition of discrimination on the basis of gender, race, religion or ethnicity.

The General Objectives 
Act to improve work conditions (enforce labour standards).
Act to help the Egyptian workers obtain their right to form their independent unions.
Assist and develop the labor movement by strengthening and increasing its capabilities.
Develop women’s participation in the labour movement and organizations, and raise the societal awareness of the importance of women’s participation vis-à-vis the culture of discrimination and exclusion of women.
Develop women’s participation in CTUWS’ activities.
Develop the concept of societal negotiations as a democratic mechanism; and raise the societal awareness of the importance of negotiations.
Contribute to developing democratic practices in the society.
Defend the socially marginalized groups and act for their empowerment.
 Develop the Egyptian Labour Movement relations and engagement with the International Trade union and Labour Movements.
Cairo/ Egypt
Helwan- 1 (A) Mohammed Said Ahmed st.- Petrogas buildings- Alexandria building- Second Floor – Apartment No. (2) P.O. Box. 114 Helwan
Tel & Fax : (202) 25593932 / 25593929
E-mail : ctuws.ctuws@gmail.com 
Website: http://www.ctuws.com