Message from the campaign to defend Trade Union Freedoms (Egypt) to the Arab Trade Union Confederation (ATUC)

Press Releases
Thursday, November 24, 2016 - 12:41

Mr. Hussein Al-Abbassi, head of  Arab Trade Union Confederation (ATUC)

Mr. Mustapha Tlili, secretary general of the Confederation

Colleagues / members of the Executive Council of the Confederation

The message also attached
The campaign to defend Trade Union Freedoms (Egypt) extends greetings to the Arab Trade Union Confederation (ATUC), wishing the meeting to be a success. We are raising this document hoping your agenda can accommodate addressing it and responding to the requests within.

In session no. 37 held on 04 July 2016, the Egyptian Cabinet agreed to the draft law of "Trade Union Organizations, and the protection of the right to organize" a step prior to presenting it to the parliament in order to endorse it.This draft law is disappointing and severely deviating from the international labor standards. It involves what may be considered a violation of freedoms of association and what constitutes a threat to the right of Egyptian workers to form their own union organizations with their own free will. Therefore a campaign to defend trade union freedoms, which includes many of the independent trade unions, civil society organizations, a number of political parties, and the Centre for Trade Union and Workers Services, has begun work nearly two months ago. The campaign started by rejecting the draft law submitted by the government as such. It adopted another draft which has gained the approval of 65 members of parliament and is being preparedto be submitted to parliament.

The campaign to defend trade union freedoms aspires to garner your solidarity with their demands. It is interested in sharing opinions concerning the law of trade union organizations. The following are the most prominent drawbacks included in the bill submitted by the Egyptian government:

  • Article II states that "trade union labor organizations retain legal personality status gained by law, and continues to practice in accordance with its provisions, as well as the statutes regulations as long as it is not in conflict with provisions of the law. The legal personality of other labor groups should be fixed from the date of establishment in accordance with the provisions of the law attached. The article leads to the following:
  • The governmental or official The Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) will continue to be considered the only union and all other independent unions will simply be negligible labor gatherings that do not obtain legal personality except after being re-established anew according to the law, except for a very few. This includes discrimination, favoritism and granting legal recognition to the “semiofficial” trade union organizationand a waste of legal gainsof independent trade unions over the past years.

Supposedly all existing organizations and institutions are expected to adjust their positions when the new law is issued, but the draft law submitted by the government surprisingly alleviates The Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) and its union from adjusting their positions. The reason is clear and unquestionable and that is an exemption of this quasi-governmental institution of re-registration of its members. This means it will retain all its members without giving them the right to choose once more.

It is the bitter history which Egyptians workers are not pleased to see return once again. Unions that boast hundreds of thousands of false membershipsmeanwhile hundreds of thousands of workers are deprived from the right to organize themselves in a real "free and independent", and effective union. Registration on paper, proving professions on paper and membership on paper while workers are denied actual training, rehabilitation for real work opportunities and legal protection for the rights of insurance, social security and health insurance: Workers deprived of unions.

* Legalize the formations of the “The Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF)" despite the invalidity of these formations whose nomination procedures and election to membership took place in accordance with the ministerial decisions numbers 298, 299, 300, 301 for the year 2006 which include clear violations of freedoms of union that are clear to impose restrictions on the right to nominate and the violation of the right of candidates to contact their voting electoral and express their views freely; which amount to inequality between the nominees. There is no room to mention the breaches and violations of the electoral process recorded by observers, reports, journalists and accompanied by pictures and documents - the most notable manifestation was the deprivation of wide numbers of workers"members"of their right to nomination. There were over a hundred court rulings invalidating the elections and all the organizing decrees.
Prior to that and more importantly, this "official" organization and its union was established and functions in accordance with the provisions of the current law No. 35 for the year 1976, as amended and including provisions; a law that violates the new Egyptian Constitution in a flagrant manner and is far from core labor standards.

  • This project is unfortunately presented by the Egyptian government as if a reformulation of the current –expired – law No. 35 for the year 1976, as amended, with the addition of some articles and revisions which seems to be as a result of the extreme criticism directed towards to this law and to avoid comments of the ILO, which led to the inclusion of the Egyptian government on the of individual cases in the years 2008,2010 & 2013.
    The draft law stipulated that "workers – with no discrimination – have the right to form trade union organizations and have as well the freedom to join them or to withdraw from them". This right has been restricted by "the rules and procedures set forth in this law and implementing decisions". The articles were full versions of the one model which is "very dear to the heart of the Egyptian government" to regulate trade unions, in the following manner:
  • Article 13 of the draft law of Trade Union Organizations states that the levels of the union committee are three: the union committee, the general union and the trade union federation "seemingly keeping the hierarchical nature which was provided for in Article 7 of the present Law on Trade Unionsand the name of the trade union committees "to unions of entities or even governorates" shrinking them and considering them to fall short of the terms of the union;casting a shadow on its right to exercise all powers and activities of trade unions. The project denies workers and unions the right to form unions (sectorial) and regional (geographical) unions as they do not fall within the framework of the single model; the only one the government knows!! Despite rich experiences of these unions which the independent trade unions succeeded in practically developing over the past years.
  • The condition stated by the bill to form a union for the entity (which made it a mere trade union committee) that the number of members may not be less than one hundred members, and the number of workers in the facility must be at least a hundred workers [Article 14]. It also stipulated that the composition of the union should include at least twenty trade union committees and no fewer members than thirty thousand. Then the condition of the composition of the General Union is that the number of public unions not be less than ten unions (three hundred thousand members).

Such numbers seem insignificant for the trade union organization which has is used to includinggovernment and public sector employees automatically or rather mandatory –in a semi obligatory manner - way and deduct their contributions from their salaries without consulting them. It is not required according to the draft law to adjust its settings or prove membership other than by mere papers. Nevertheless they seem huge numbers if we are regarding independent unions not based on the government which claims to exert effort to convince workers of the importance of the role of trade unions and have them join them.

In addition to the fact that these conditions deprive workers in enterprises with fewer workers than one hundred workers from exercising their right to form trade unions for the facilities, they represent a restriction on the exercise of the right to form trade unions and federations in general. The draft law is distant from provisions of ILO Convention No. 87 and contrary to the rules approved by the Committee on freedom of association of the International Labor Organization.

  • The draft law stipulates that whoever fields himself as a candidate for membership in the board of union organization eight terms in what is to be considered an encroachment on the right of the authentic general assembly in the development of its own system and choice of representatives, and a violation of the right to vote and run supposedly ensured for all union members. Moreover the conditions include that s/he (who is running as a candidate for membership of the board of Directors) should not be a "temporary, assigned, or deputized”. This is the same strange text which was mentioned as a quotation from law No. 35 for the year 1976 placed forty years ago "tailored to the size of trade union organization" which is almost one of the institutions of governance and whose membership includes the public sector, where temporary workers were an exception.
    Is it reasonable that such a condition is active now, while workers on temporary contracts constitute the largest proportion of workers in the private sector?
  • The draft law places a condition that the member of trade union organization is required to be an Egyptian national [Article 22] contrary to international labor standards and the Convention on the protection of the rights of migrant workers signed by the Egyptian government. The draft law places seven conditions for membership, conditions that were supposed to be decided by the union members themselves in their organizational charter. The draft law also determines seven reasons for the end of trade union memberships, including the transition to work in a facility that does not follow the classification of the trade union organization!! [Article 26]. Article 14 of the draft law states that to form a union at the level of the governorate (called a trade union professional committee) 100 worker members is required. In addition the workers should be " involved in professional groups or similar industries, or related industries, or that all participate in one production."
    So the draft law puts the core union bylaws and regulations without leaving anything for the members to decide.
  • The draft law states in article 6 that "the related minister shall issue a decision of model regulations with the Statute, the financial system and administrative system". As long as we are talking about a ministerial decision, there is no way to view the listas indicative and non-binding especially that our previous experiences with "model regulations" say that they should not be considered only models.
  • The project also identifies the trade union organization's goals and activities [Article 18] in a manner that opens the door to considering any contrary activity a breach. This is especially that Article 5 prohibited the formation of unions on political basis. It is needless to say that a request for the expansion of social protection umbrella, or expressing an opinion on some of the general budget bullets, for example, would constitute a "political matter" - according to the appropriate!!
  • Many of the seventy-three items of the draft law were copied from the provisions of law No. 35 for the year 1976 and its amendments including a lot of the detailed provisions that are supposed to be decided by the general assembly of the union according to the will of its members, goals and means of achieving these goals. The draft law imposes on unions the duration of trade union assembly, the number of board members, procedures to suspend a member of the trade union organization and dismissal procedures, procedures for union elections, the need for the existence of a Bureau ... etc.
  • The draft law makes it possible that "every interested party may request the competent labor court to rule to dissolve the organization trade union, if built, or remodeled contrary to the provisions of this law," meanwhile the Egyptian constitution prohibits the dissolution of trade union organizations "absolutely" and does not allow to solve their boards of directors except by virtue of a court verdict [Article 76 of the Constitution]. In all cases, unions and their executive boards should be immunized against dissolution and determine precisely the case to ask for dissolution of these councils to be precise and limited.
  • The draft law immunizes the union meetings against implementation of laws concerning public meetings. Regardless that the rights of expression and peaceful assembly should be guaranteed to all citizens, the law limits its immunity to the meeting taking place at the union headquarters. The reality is that the meeting of the union at its headquarters is almost always a special meeting, and by virtue of this it is totally immunized by virtue of the constitution verbatim while public meetings held by trade unions, which may include non-members often take place outside these headquarters if the union has a headquarter to start with. Many of the independent trade unions have limited resources and lack a place that functions as headquarters-as long as we are talking about unions that are not affiliated with the government and does not receive its grants.
  • Article 11 of the draft law determines the entities to receive funds of the trade union organization if dissolved or the legal personality expires and hence it is no longer in line with international labor conventions and the Egyptian Constitution. Union funds are special money that may not be expropriated or taken over, and the general assembly of the union is the only party entitledto take a decision to dissolve the union and decide on how to dispose of the money.
  • Section ten of the draft law includes three penalties that are restrictive of freedoms (confinement). Although we are in the process of issuing a law to regulate volunteer civilian activity; a law supposedly to ensure that freedom is not restricted and to enable the holders of rights to exercise their right and not put a sword to their necks. This law includes punishing "every person who participated in the founding, management of entity or association, group, organization, league, entity, otherwiseand called it unlawfully a trade union labor organizations " Is that in line with the right of all workers to form unions freely !! The bill that includes such a provision cannot be explained except by one of two possibilities: Either that the people of the draft assume or rather are heading to deprive some unions from recognition and its legal personality and hence exercising trade union activities would be a punishable violation, or that it is a statement intended to terrorize the workers' and divert them from exercising trade union activity!!

Members of the Executive Council of the Arab Trade Union Confederation (ATUC),

We here raise the most prominent bullets on the draft law of trade union organizations put forward by the Egyptian government. We are confident in your full bias towards freedoms of association and the right of all workers, without exclusion or discrimination, to form unions that express them and defend their interests, to draw up their constitutions and systems, and define its objectives and activities free willingly without interference or dictation.

We urge solidarity with us in our position on the draft law and direct your call to the international labor and trade union movement, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in support of this position on all levels based on the principles of workers' solidarity; and to address the Egyptian government demanding the withdrawal of the draft law submitted by them or to modify it in compliance with the provisions of the Egyptian Constitution, which guarantees Egyptian workers their democratic right to form trade unions, and the application of international labor conventions –in particular law no. 87 signed by the Egyptian government in 1957.

Campaign to defend Trade Union Freedoms

Wednesday, November 9, 2016



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