May Day Message
Lost Rights and Continuous Struggle
On the first day of May 1886, workers in Chicago organized a strike action in which more than 350,000 workers participated. In this strike action, they demanded the determination of working hours raising the slogan (eight hours of work.. eight hours of sleep.. eight hours of leisure). This was rejected by the authorities and employers.
The police opened fire on protestors killing a number of them. Then, an unknown person threw a bomb at a gathering of policemen resulting in the death of 11 people including seven policemen. So, several leading workers were arrested. Four of them were sentenced to death. And the rest were imprisoned for different periods of time. The truth about the identity of the party who threw the bomb was revealed when the Police Chief confessed that the bomb was thrown by one of the policemen. So, the first of May became the day on which workers raise their demands and flags.
This May Day comes as the struggle of Egypt’s workers continues. We witnessed in the past months a number of workers’ protests and strike actions, prominent among them is the sit-in of the workers of the Delta Company for Fertilizers in Talkha which continued for more than two months. Several of them were subject to Imprisonment and harassments. Their struggle resulted in achieving their demands and forcing the Ministry of Public Sector Works to refrain from changing the location of the Factory and to announce that the Company will be developed in its current location.
Within the same direction of the Ministry to liquidate companies, the Minister of Public Works Sector decided in last January to liquidate the Iron and Steel Company. Workers refused this decision and staged a sit-in. They used all legal means. They filed several lawsuits. We, at CTUWS, call upon all political forces to show their solidarity with the workers of the Iron and Steel Company. And we call upon the Ministry of Public Works Sector to change its position and study the proposals made to develop the Company.
On May Day, Egyptian workers continue to face the obduracy of the Ministry of Manpower and its directorates which put obstacles in front of workers aiming at establishing independent trade unions in violation of the Law. We call upon the Ministry of Manpower to stop this behavior, to implement laws and regulations, and to respect the right to organize which is guaranteed by law and constitution.
May Day comes for the second time amid the Coronavirus pandemic which revealed the extent of deterioration in the conditions of irregular labour which constitutes more than 46% of the Egyptian labour market. The allowance paid by the government (500 EGP per month) was not sufficient. It also didn’t reach all people who deserve it. So, we call upon Egyptian legislators to make legislative amendments to protect the most vulnerable sector of labour, and discuss the draft Law on domestic workers which include 55 articles in six chapters including the regulation of the affairs of domestic workers like the conditions for licensing employment firms, working hours, leaves and rest periods, age of employment, penalties, dispute resolution, labour inspection, penalties, etc. The draft law on domestic labour prohibits the employment of domestic workers, of any sex, below the age of 18. The competent Minister may make exceptions from the minimum age conditions, provided that working hours are not more than six hours a day and that job duties don’t subject the worker to any hazard or violation of human dignity. In all cases, a person may not be employed as a domestic worker under the age of 16. The employer is prohibited to treat domestic worker in a degrading manner or in a way that is violating to his/her humanity. All forms of violence against the worker are forbidden.
We also call for discussing the suggestion to amend the Social Insurance Law. In spite of the importance of social legislations, this Law was issued without conducting any social dialogue. The Parliament issued this important law in a hurry. Consequently, some of its articles may be unconstitutional. There are also many defects and contradictions in the provisions of this Law. So although the Law entered into force, the Executive Regulations were not issued until now. So, we see that the Law has to be reviewed and amended. Some of its articles require urgent amendment because they include apparent contradictions and defects.
These two legislative proposals are important because these legislations deprive large sectors of the working class from legal and social protection. The two proposals are adopted by a number of parliamentarians. CTUWS will also launch a campaign to call for the discussion and adoption of the Law. It calls all democratic forces to join and participate in this Campaign.
On May Day, we welcome the decisions of the Ministry of Manpower to reduce the number of professions prohibited for women and to allow women to work at night. That was prohibited according to article 89 of the Labour Law. The removal of the prohibition of night work for women comes with obliging employers to provide means of transportation at night shifts for all workers, and safe transportation for women workers. Although we welcome these decisions, which come as a response to the struggles of working women for several years, we assert that they lack implementing mechanisms. Here comes the role of independent trade unions and their importance. We assert that it is important to remove restrictions on the right to organize, and to empower women to participate in trade unions and assume leadering roles therein. We demand the Ministry of Manpower to take more measures to fight discrimination against women. We demand that the Egyptian government ratifies ILO Convention no. 190 regarding Violence and Harassment at Work.
Om May Day, we renew our demands to release workers and trade unions leaders who are prisoners of conscience. We also mourn with great sorrow the death of more than twenty men and women workers in Al-Obour factory who lost their lives in a horrible fire because of the greediness of the owner of the factory, and the corruption of government officials. We also call upon all competent authorities to punish all those responsible for this crime so that such catastrophe does not take place again.
So, we will continue demanding our right to fair wages, and safe working environment, and our right to establish our own independent trade unions.
Glory to all Martyrs of the Working Class
Long Live the Struggle of Workers