Report on the Violations of Trade Unions’ Freedoms:
In the Darkness of the Tunnel
January to June 2017
During the first six months of 2017, the state of public freedoms in Egypt is increasingly becoming complicated and complex: there is no more room to enjoy rights and freedoms and the ruling power is escalating its attacks against any free or independent voice differing from those raised by the yes men of the regime; and this situation is taking place under extremely deteriorated political, social and economic conditions.
In this context the ruling power is using nothing but shrinking the public space in face of the problems and obstacles at the political and workers’ levels; instead of resorting to dialogue enabling to reach fair solutions, the power is practicing military prosecutions against civilians, preventive imprisonment that may last for months and years while this arrangement should be essentially used as a precautionary measure; actually, preventive imprisonment has turned into a punishment addressed to those black listed. Moreover, arrests happen often without judiciary orders or authorization from the general prosecution, besides the restrictions imposed on the freedom of opinion, expression, assembly and demonstration, or practicing the right of striking, all rights provided by both the Constitution and international conventions.
During the past few days, security forces have launched wide campaigns of arrest against youth in political parties and in the civil society under fallacious and tailored accusations; these campaigns come in response of the political parties and forces’ intention of participating in the next presidential elections and their request for guarantees securing the integrity of these elections.
In addition, civil society organizations are constantly put under siege and their assets frozen, many of their members banned from travel and even some of these organizations were closed.
On 28th May 2017, President Abdel Fattah El Sissi has ratified the controversial Law on NGOs that was approved by the Parliament last January. According to this law, sentences for contraventions could reach up to five years of jail and bails up to one million pounds. Furthermore, the Law prevents associations and foundations from conducting or publishing any research or opinion poll without prior authorization by the State. As of foreign NGOs wishing to work in Egypt, they have to pay registration fees as high as 300,000 pounds and all funding, either local or foreign will be under the control of a newly established “national agency” including representatives of the security services, the army and other governmental bodies.
With the ratification of this law, the civil society that has old roots in Egypt is threatened by a state of paralysis and dismantlement.
The situation is even worse with the adoption on April 9 of the emergency state that has imposed additional constraints on the freedom of reunion, mobility, residence or even walking near specific places at specific times. The emergency state allows also the right to arrest any person suspected to represent a danger for the public order; in addition, it grants the right of monitoring all types of correspondence, communication, means of expression and advertising, as well as the various forms of media, and confiscate them or close their headquarters.
Under the umbrella of the emergency state, Egyptian authorities have implemented a decision of blocking the view of twenty five web sites accused of propagating ideas that support terrorism and extremism and disseminate lies; the list includes “Mada Masr”, “Masr El Arabia”, “El Masryoun”, the site of the Egyptian Stock Market, “Daily News Egypt” (one of the most important sites in economic matters), as well as other sites.
The workers’ movement being an integral part of the society and even a major dynamo lying on the heart of political and social forces, it was not surprising to see this movement under fire as the attacks of the regime sought to curtail the very few democratic rights that workers succeeded to obtain with great difficulty after the 25th of January revolution. It has become a constant practice to repress workers’ strikes, arrest their leaders and submit them to prosecution. A campaign of slander is attempting to insinuate to the public opinion the right of striking is synonymous to chaos and instability.
There are fierce governmental attacks against the movement of workers in order to abolish any democratic rights they gained through tremendous efforts after 2011 Revolution; these attacks are translated into the repression of workers’ strikes and the deferral of workers’ leaders to inquiry or judgment; workers’ strikes are qualified of being the reason behind the prevailing social instability. Once again, the right to establish independent trade unions is denied and tens of the movement’s leaders are led to courts of justice, many of them spending several months in jail; moreover, tens were fired from work at a rate never seen before as a consequence of their affiliation to independent trade unions. The governmental entities intervene directly against independent trade unions, exerting pressure over their members to withdraw from these organizations and rejoin the Egyptian Federation of Workers Trade Unions. Administrative decisions and instructions are calling for the illegality of independent trade unions. These fierce attacks are hampering today the right to establish independent trade unions; it is combined with direct instigation by some governmental authorities and adepts of the formal Federation against the most vibrant independent trade unions, their leaders and members who are often fired from work in the absence of any legal protection on the base of Law 35/1976 about trade unions that does not grant a legal status to independent entities.
There is a determination to revitalize the obsolete law about workers’ trade unions (Law 35/1976) under a new name; the draft law includes a huge amount of procedures and requisites practically restricting the right to create independent trade unions; in addition, it differentiates between those affiliated to the “governmental” Federation and the workers who have joined independent trade unions. The new draft Law prevents the general assemblies of trade unions to develop their own By-Laws or adopt specific criteria for the selection of their executive bodies, this way violating the right of people to choose, join, withdraw or unite.
The constant request of Egyptian workers, either before or after the Revolution, was the abolishment of legal constraints on the right to establish trade unions independently of the official Federation without being forced to join some selected trade unions that are in fact a tool for the government to impose its agenda.
While all these violations occur against the freedoms of trade unions, the trade union cycle of the General Federation Board is extended year after year for eleven consecutive years although this Board lost its legacy following a judgement by the Court in 2006.
All Egyptians, including workers, rebelled in defense of the life they deserve in their homeland, they right to dignity, freedom and social justice, the right to live in a nation inclusive of all citizens within a context of real democracy that cannot be summarized in representative institutions, elections or a Parliament regardless the shocking performance of the latter. Democracy means for Egyptians the existence of independent trade unions and civil society organizations: organizations where workers, employees and other social categories can group together, express their interests in a direct way and exert pressure in order to obtain their demands.
However, the ruling power is pursuing obstinately its way in the absence of any vision, pushing the society as a whole towards a dark tunnel.
The Center for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS)
5th June 2017
Draft laws ) Labor Law and Law of Trade Unions)
Current draft laws in connection are tailored by the minister of labor force who considers them as his best achievement; actually, these drafts are extremely inconsistent and the governmental assertions that they have been discussed at the social level are totally false and distorted; moreover, the opinion of the most credible representatives of workers was never taken in consideration. It is important to stress the fact that an equilibrium in work relations cannot take place without providing social protection to the weakest counterpart of this equation (i.e. the workers) and without the acknowledgement of businessmen about their social responsibility as well as the respect of work standards, the right to collective negotiation and the commitment to conventions and agreements.
Draft Labor Law
On 23 May 2017, the parliamentarian committee on labor force sent to the State Council a new draft law presented by the government after having discussed this draft, in order to obtain the opinion of the Court about the articles related to the creation of courts specialized in labor matters and responsible of settling litigations concerning work issues.
Undoubtedly, the idea of speeding the process of settling disputes through the establishment of specialized courts is a valuable one; however, we cannot perceive how it will solve the contradiction and misunderstanding existing in the current law between chapters five and seven: while articles 68 and 69 consider that termination of work by businessmen is against the law, other articles consider as legal the unilateral right of bosses to terminate the working relationship with the only right for workers to receive a compensation amounting between two and three months of salary.
According to the draft law, business owners have the right to hire workers on temporary contracts renewed annually up to six years without considering this as a permanent working relationship. Consequently, renewal of the work contract more than once is not accounted as a proof of indefinite contract unless it exceeds six years. Such situation deprives workers from professional security.
It is worth noting that the clause of the current law forbidding arbitrary termination was abolished in the new draft law that was supposed to be compatible with the terms of the Constitution and its article 13 specifically mentioning the prevention of arbitrary termination and the right of workers to benefit from the State protection.
The terminology used in the new draft Law needs also some readjustment, mainly regarding definitions; for example, the definition of strikes as well as the concept and criteria of institutions considered as strategic and vital in Article 203. In addition, some articles need to be abolished such as Article 201 requiring workers to notify the administration about the ending date of their strike which is a pure nonsense.
Moreover, the mechanisms of social debate, collective negotiations and collective work contracts are totally absent from the text of the draft law; this lack applies also to the right of autonomy for trade unions enabling the existence of strong and representative organizations capable of engaging in collective negotiations and social debate.
In addition, Article 78 of the said draft restrict the representation of workers in the National Council of Wages to four members selected by the General Federation of Workers Trade Unions implicitly considered as the sole body concerned with this issue, regardless all other organizations of workers, namely their independent trade unions.
The legislative department of the State Council expressed comments about the exaggerated profusion of supreme and executive commissions in the draft Law. The response of the Ministry of Labor was that this represents a commitment to the International Convention Number 150 of 1978 ratified by Egypt on 17 November 1991; the Ministry stated that this system contributes in finding solutions to issues that the government cannot solve alone, and that involving the organizations of workers and businessmen provides the government with information, better awareness and insight of the existing needs and possible alternatives, impacting thus positively the process of decision-making.
This answer seems rational and we do agree on the importance of activating the mechanisms of social dialogue through the creation of a supreme commission for social dialogue and sub-branches in the various governorates while we express our reservation about the presidency of these commissions by the governors. However, we highly fear that these commissions will remain as inactive as its predecessors. Actually, the success of social dialogue presumes the right to free association and organization for all social categories and their right to create the entities that express their interests; no way for a social dialogue to be really implemented without abolishing the obstacles preventing workers’ free initiatives to organize themselves.
Furthermore, the proposed draft law did not address the issue and problems encountered by the non-organized labor force and the labor force in the informal sector contenting itself with the establishment of a fund to grant them protection without specifying the measures that guarantee the protection of these workers’ rights.
The draft law lacks provisions regarding unemployment and its compensation in compatibility with the current conditions of the labor market. The chapter about child labor needs also to be revisited as it is contradictory with international conventions ratified by Egypt and with the Child Law.
Finally, this draft law should be submitted to a social debate opened to all social stakeholders and the results of such sessions taken into account when adopting the law.
Draft Law about Trade Unions
Rumors are spread in the corridors of the Parliament and inside its labor force committee headed by Gebali El Maraghi, president of the administrative committee managing the official Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) "antagonist to trade union freedoms", and in the presence of the Ministry of Labor representatives that solely recognize the General Federation; these rumors indicate that there are attempts to have the draft law about trade unions duly adopted by the Parliament. This draft law is presented as friendly to trade unions’ freedom and diversity.
According to the available version of the draft law "all organizations and institutions existing at the time of the enactment of the Law will have to adjust their situation accordingly" except in the case of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) and its affiliated trade unions despite the fact that the current Law on the base of which the Federation obtained its legal status is contradictory to the present Constitution, Egypt international commitments as well as court judgments.
The proposed draft law anticipates the existence of a single trade union body with specific timing for its elections; therefore, the essence of obsolete Law 35/1976 is literally kept regardless its unconstitutional nature and its contradiction with the basic work standards mentioned in the report of the ILO expert group. Therefore, the solution is not to work on an old anti-constitutional law but rather abolishing it categorically and replacing it by a new fresh Law that recognizes all the rights claimed by workers.
While the draft law mentions the non-discriminatory right of all workers to establish their own organizations, join these organizations or withdraw their membership in accordance to the International Labor Convention Number 87, it includes a huge amount of procedures and requisites practically restricting the right to create independent trade unions; it also enlarges the restrictions in establishing trade unions, such as forbidding their establishment on political backgrounds which is a very vague denomination opening the door for multiple and antagonist justifications and explanations. In addition, it differentiates between those affiliated to the “governmental” Federation and the workers who have joined independent trade unions. The new draft law prevents the general assemblies of trade unions to develop their own By-Laws or the criteria for the selection of their executive bodies, this way violating the right of people to choose, join, withdraw or unite.
In Article 22 of the draft law, there are seven conditions for the affiliation to trade unions as well as ten reasons for terminating this affiliation mentioned in article 26; among the conditions of membership is that the trade union members hold the Egyptian nationality which is in clear contravention with the international labor standards and conventions that were ratified by Egypt.
The draft law specifies the cycle of the board by four years, the number of board members and the criteria of their eligibility while this is a violation of the right for candidacy and election that should be equally granted to all trade union members.
The draft law proposes a pre-condition for the establishment of general trade unions, i.e. the affiliation of not less than twenty trade union committees and a membership not below thirty thousand members. As of the establishment of a general trade union, it presupposes the affiliation of not less than ten general trade unions, i.e. a total of not less than three hundred thousand members. These numbers seem to be meaningless for the General Federation that used to compulsorily include workers from the governmental and the public sectors.
However, the conditions stipulated in the draft law will deprive workers in institutions of less than one hundred workers from practicing their right of establishing trade unions.
Article 24 of the same draft stipulates that the membership of workers in trade unions be automatically transferred to the trade union where they join a new place of work, with the enjoyment of the new privileges and services. Moreover, if two institutions merge, membership goes automatically to the hosting trade union committee. These clauses are in clear contradiction with the principles of trade union freedoms and Convention 87 that grant the right for workers to choose joining or withdrawing from a trade union as the transfer of a worker from an institution to the other shouldn’t mean automatic affiliation to the trade union in the new setting.
Article 11 of the draft law indicates the parties entitled to benefit from the money of a trade union whose status was terminated while the principles of freedom say that the allocation of this money should be decided by the general assembly.
Article 54 prohibits the reception of donations or funding from foreign individuals or entities, either from inside or outside the country. It is important to mention here that number of trade unions and federations are members in regional and international federations; therefore, it is natural that they pay their membership fees and benefit from the services offered by these federations. Such a text might deprive trade unions from joining international entities and participate in their events although workers’ solidarity represents and essential pillar and a main characteristic of the workers’ movement.
Chapter ten of the draft law includes eight punishments depriving from liberty such as being sentenced to jail. Actually, this law is supposed to regulate a voluntary civic activity guaranteeing the freedom of workers and empowering them to practice their rights instead of representing a threat.
All these discrepancies in the draft law result from the neglect of the drafting committee of inviting all the concerned parties to participate in a social debate regarding this law. The committee also ignored all other draft laws that were produced after wide discussions, including a draft law adopted by the Cabinet in 2011 and another draft deferred to the Cabinet in 2014.
Decisions adverse to trade unions’ freedoms
Governmental bodies continue to intervene directly against independent trade unions, exerting pressure over their members to withdraw from these organizations and rejoin the Egyptian Federation of Workers Trade Unions. Administrative decisions and instructions are calling for the illegality of independent trade unions These fierce attacks are hampering today the right to establish independent trade unions; this is combined with direct instigation by some governmental authorities and adepts of the formal Federation against the most vibrant independent trade unions, their leaders and members who are often fired from work in the absence of any legal protection, giving a green light to businessmen and others escalating their repression against them. Among these violations we note:
Controversial legal opinion issued by the State Council and used in an attempt to eradicate independent trade unions
On 21 December 2016, the general assembly of legal opinions and legislation at the State Council issued its opinion about file 58/1/384 stating that the registration of independent trade unions at the Ministry of Labor Force and Migration was illegal. Since its publication, this legal opinion was widely used in the attacks against independent trade unions.
Actually, the Ministry of Labor Force and Migration had sent a request to the State Council on 20 January 2015 inquiring about the legality of accepting the registration papers of independent trade unions that begun to take place following the Statement of Trade Unions’ Freedoms issued by the then Minister of Labor Force and Migration in 2011.
The amazing part of this story was the fact to inquire about the rightness of implementing a ministerial decree that was issued four years before and the receipt of an answer two years after the enquiry was sent!
During the past two years, intensive attempts were deployed to eradicate independent trade unions including administrative decrees and governmental memos until the Ministry of Labor Force and Migration ceased totally from accepting papers of any new trade union or registering amendments introduced by existing ones on the base of their general assemblies’ decisions. Moreover, independent trade union were completely marginalized from the décor of social debate about draft laws and policies closely related to the conditions of workers.
On the legal and judicial grounds, the General Federation of Workers Trade Unions took proceedings on 23 November 2014 requesting a judgement that abolishes what is called independent trade unions. The Administrative Court of the State Council deferred the case on 26th June 2016 to the High Constitutional Court in order to obtain its opinion about the constitutionality of Articles 4, 7, 13 and 63 of Law 35/1976 and its amendments.
After the attempts of eradicating independent trade unions on the base of a judiciary judgement failed, we find ourselves in front of new attempts to use the legal opinion of the department of legal opinions and legislation at the State Council. This occurs despite the historical judgement of the Administrative Court of the State Council stating that the clauses of the Egyptian Constitution, in accordance with international conventions, are favorable to the independence of workers’ trade unions and the multiplicity of bodies in the context of single or similar professions differently from the rules applied to professional trade unions.
Actually, the legal opinion mentioned earlier is contradictory to the judgement of the High Constitutional Court; however, this legal opinion does not imply that the status of already existing trade unions that were active for years is changed or that they have to stop working.
After having failed to obtain a court judgement dissolving independent trade unions, Mr. Gebali El Maraghi, chairperson of the “governmental” General Federation of Workers Trade Unions, is using the legal opinion of the State Council as if it was a judiciary judgement that he sent to the governmental departments, companies and other bodies asking them to forbid any interaction with the so called independent or free trade unions and federations.
Being issued by the president of the governmental Federation, governmental departments and companies considered this memo as governmental directives and hurried up to implement its content. Consequently, number of independent trade unions were the object of growing attacks and attempts to exterminate them before the enactment of the new Law about Trade Unions.
In this context, the general trade unions of workers in real estate taxes, the general trade union of workers in the Egyptian company of communications and the trade union of workers at the Ministry of Food Supplies received letters from their respective departments requesting them to stop activities and evacuate the headquarters they were occupying. In addition, the administration of the authority of public transportation ceased to accept the membership fees that it used to convey directly to the account of the independent trade union, and the General Authority of Adult Education transferred the head of the independent trade unions of workers in this entity as well as a member of its executive board and went to require the reimbursement of all membership fees previously collected from the members on the base of their full and voluntary agreement.
Coercive practices against workers and their leaders
Over the last six months, tens of workers and trade unions’ leaders were deferred to trial; many of them spent several months in jail while tens of others were fired from work in an unprecedented rate. The trials of workers in public transports, EFKO and the maritime arsenal workers are still ongoing besides the arrest of workers’ leaders at the Egyptian Company of Communication that were subject to investigation for two full days before being released and deferred to a new trial.
As a consequence, tens of workers lost their jobs and their only means of living in punishment of seeking to enjoy their legal democratic rights while being deprived from legal protection under the pretext of the illegality of their organizations according to Law 35/1976.
IFFCO workers are acquitted by the court and dismissed by the employer
2nd January, 2017
Close to the end of 2016, IFFCO Company for Oils witnessed a conflict related to workers’ rights, especially with regards to the way promotions and increase of salaries are accounted and disbursed, a way that was considered by workers as incompatible with the requisites of social justice; following the refusal of the administration to engage in negotiations, workers had to recourse to sitting-in in the headquarters of the Company and to announce their intention of beginning a strike.
It is important to note that the labor office in charge of the district where the Company is located had prepared a report dated 28th December 2016 stating that the only claim of workers was a fair redistribution of their dues and that the responsible of the Security Authority in Suez had requested accordingly from the delegated member of the Company to reconsider the basis on which allocations were decided. However, this request was rejected as well.
Beginning December 29, events went in a totally different direction as workers were confronted with a complaint accusing fifteen of them, including members of their trade union, of instigation to strike and abstention from work. Moreover, the security services assaulted the houses of some of them followed by an invasion conducted by the Central Security Forces in the premises of the Company on the eve of 2nd January 2017, accompanied by the coercive evacuation of the workers and the arrest of twelve among those participating in the sit-in.
Later on, the office of attorney decided to release the arrested workers against a bail of two hundred pounds for each while twenty seven others were deferred to trial under Court Case number 2932/2016 before the Ataqa Court of Delinquency which pronounced its judgment on January 29. In parallel, the company’s administration issued a decree of preventing thirty workers (i.e. the 27 deferred to court plus three others) from entering in the work place.
On January 29, the Suez Court declared nineteen workers innocent from the accusations against them; however, seventeen workers of IFFCO, including the president, vice president and secretary general of the trade union, are still prevented from reintegrating work and as a measure of punishment, the administration decided to operate a deduction from workers’ salaries in compensation of the “damages” caused by the sit-in.
Days after her appearance in a TV interview on “MBC Masr” channel on 26th January 2017, nurse Sayeda Fayed was fired from work by the administration of Ain Shams Specialized Hospital on 1st February 2017.
During the TV episode, Sayeda had talked about the reutilization several times of some syringes due to the scarcity of material; she also mentioned the lack of adequate measures for the isolation of nurses affected with virus C in order to avoid the contamination of others, in addition to other problems.
Immediately after the end of the episode, the head of the nursing department called her to inform her that TV appearance should be backed by an authorization of the administration that decides the broad guiding lines for the interviewee; however, Sayeda refused this allegation stating that she had the right to talk to the media at her own convenience.
A few days later, the nurse was fired without investigation or any warning; her letter of termination mentioned that there was no more need for extra workers in health services as new graduates from the faculties of nursing were hired. This is totally contrary to the reality as Sayeda declares that there is a drop in the section of nursing for surgeries where she was working.
Sayeda is going currently through a battle with the administration of the hospital; her fight in courts might last for long before she reintegrates her work.
Without mentioning any reason, ON TV administration terminated its contract with TV announcer Khaled Telema through a telephone call according to what he wrote on Face Book.
For five years, Telema had presented a morning program on this channel and was previously vice minister of youth under the cabinet presided by Dr. Hazem El Biblawi. He was also considered as one of the most prominent young activists during the 25th of January revolution.
Nurses in Zaqaziq University Hospital organized a partial strike to protest against their deteriorated conditions, request a readjustment of salaries in order to cope with the high rates of inflation, and obtain the value of their due compensations according to the rules of work in the hospital. The response of the general administration was a suspension from work for thirty six nurses without prior inquiry or warning.
Their financial requests were related to overtime, retarded bonuses and additional items such as compensation for nature of work.
The hospital administration pretended that number of colleagues had submitted complaints against the nurses’ strike; however, it appeared that this was a pure lie.
When the suspended workers went to the police station to book a procès-verbal against the administration decision they found that the general prosecutor of the governorate had issued an order to arrest them under the accusation of obstructing work in the vital sections of the hospital and participating in the strike.
The kidney unit of the hospital had sent a notice to the legal department affirming that the unit was fully working on February 11, day of the partial strike, representing thus a proof that the strike was partial and didn’t harm the health of patients.
Meanwhile, the nurses have commissioned a lawyer to take the necessary legal procedures against their arbitrary suspension from work without providing any clear reason for that.
After the decision of floating the Egyptian currency, the administrations of both the Egyptian Company of Fertilizers and the Egyptian Company of Basic Industries refused to increase the salaries of workers in order to adapt them to the rise of price due to the high rates of inflation. The workers of these two companies that was owned by an Emirati company used to be paid in Egyptian pounds the equivalent of the dollar exchange rate; after the floatation of the pound, they requested a readjustment according to the exchange rate in banks and not according to the old rate proposed by the administration.
Their request met with refusal, workers in the Egyptian Company of Fertilizers begun the strike on 25th November 2016, this made the company filed a procès-verbalat the office of the general attorney accusing workers of instigation to strike and obstruction of work on 30 November 2016.
And because of the company intransigence, its refusal to negotiate on demands of workers and issuance of the Ministry of Manpower a letter that stated ".... since the strike of workers of the Egyptian Company of Fertilizers and the Egyptian Company of Basic Industries since 24/11/2016 to date has been without following the controls and conditions laid down by the law, then it is considered as an illegal strike and a serious mistake that requires dismissal"; this pushed workers in the Egyptian Company of Basic Industries to enter into a solidarity strike and hundreds of workers from both companies observed an open sit-in in Ain El Sokhna region, governorate of Suez. The sit-in was broken by security forces who arrested tens of workers then released them with the exception of five leaders that were deferred to the prosecutor office that decided to detain them fifteen days under accusation of instigation for strike.
On 25th February 2017; The partial Suez Court of Delinquency acquitted the five workers, including: Hossam Omara, Mohamed Hassan "The Egyptian Company for Basic Industries", Mohamed Hashim and Yasser El Gendy "The Egyptian Company of Fertilizers", of the charges against them in delinquency strike and incitement to disrupt production, under the number 44 Ataqa Delinquency for the year 2017, after their resignations submission from the company, and it is known that the workers have exposed to strong pressures by the administration to accept termination against a financial compensation. After repeated pressures, the five workers accepted the deal, but are now unemployed without any source of survival for them or their families.
It is worth mentioning that the two companies belonging to businessman Nassef Sawiris employ eight hundred workers divided between four factories without any trade union; actually these workers had presented a request to establish a trade union; this request was refused although number of companies from the same region have independent trade unions.
On 25th March 2017, Kasr El Nil Court of Appeal for Delinquency decided to accept the appeal presented by the former head of the press syndicate, Yehya Kallash and his two colleagues Gamal Abdel Rehim and Khaled El Balshi for the sentence of firm imprisonment and bail of ten thousand pounds issued against them on 19th November 2016. Therefore, the sentence was reduced to one year with arrest of judgment's implementation for three years. The case was related to the invasion of the syndicate by security forces and the arrest of journalists Amr Badr and Mahmoud El Saqqa under the pretext of “giving refuge to people wanted by the justice”.
Despite the reduction of the sentence, the decision of the Appeal Court is shocking as much as the state of siege imposed around the syndicate that was invaded on 1st May 2016. Actually, such sentence implies that there is a fault committed and this contributes in shrinking the narrow remaining space of public and private freedoms. This kind of judgment is intended to threaten any opponent whatever is their status or position at the trade union level.
We recall here that the press syndicate was surrounded for hours by security forces then invaded without any communication with the board of this syndicate.
The office of the general prosecutor conducted inquiries with Mr. Kallash and his two colleagues and released them after having deferred them to trial. The communiqué published by the office of the prosecutor show clearly the preset intentions and view point as it says that the headquarters of the press syndicate are not exempted from the arrest of accused persons who took refuge in this place.
A number of workers at Honeywell factory for foods located in the third industrial district of the 10th of Ramadan city went into a hunger strike in protest of termination from work. Actually, these workers refused to accept a quantity of raw sugar, peanuts and glycerin incompatible with the required standards as well as expired that would harm the health of children consuming these products.
In order to pressure workers accepting these contraventions, the factory’s director issued the decision to have them signing false receipts of money when receiving their salaries last September; but the workers abstained from taking their dues.
The situation escalated when the director decided to prevent them from using the factory buses for the personnel and filed a complaint against them at the police station accusing them of disobedience and abstaining from work. Nevertheless, the police perceived the lie and requested him not to raise problems with the workers. Therefore, the receipts were discarded in front of the legal advisor of the company who declared they were illegal. Inquiries of the security services and the labor office in 10th of Ramadan city proved that the workers didn’t go into strike. However, this didn’t prevent the director from taking legal procedures, requesting the termination of their contracts according to the same procès-verbalfiled at the police station that had proved the innocence of workers. Last March 30, the Labor Court of Sharqiah issued the judgement of firing 23 workers. In addition, ten engineers and supervisors were transferred to the 6th of October city branch where they found the factory deserted and closed. Accordingly, a complaint was deposed at the police station of this city in order to have an official evidence of the incident and the extend of manipulation practiced by the company.
On the evening of April 23, security forces arrested nine workers at the Egyptian Company of Communications who had organized the same day with their colleagues a sit-in of protest in front of Ramses Telephone Central Office requesting from the company’s president of the board to fulfill his promises of disbursing an allocation for costly living expenses.
The sit-in was stopped after protesters obtained a promise that their claims would be examined. However, the security forces arrested nine of their colleagues inside their offices during working hours. These were presented to the prosecution office of Azbakiah who decided the next day to release them against the guarantee of their place of residency as they were accused of assembling, obstructing work and addressing offenses to the State.
On April 24, police forces of Giza governorate arrested seven others from the Mariouteya station of telephones and they were released by the prosecution office of the 6th of October city against the guarantee of their place of residency.
The same day, Azbakiah prosecution office issued an order of arrest against Hossam Ahmed El Lakani from the governorate of Beheira and engineer Shukri El Gebali from the governorate of Alexandria while the two of them had not participated in the sit-in. They were both released later on against the guarantee of their place of residency.
For weeks before the first of May, CTUWS and the Committee for the Defense of Workers’ Rights attempted actively to rent a big hall enabling to organize a conference and celebrate the workers’ day; however, all these attempts were met with refusal by the security services. Therefore, organizers of the conference decided to hold the event at CTUWS headquarter located downtown in Qasr El Aini street.
Hundreds of workers attended the event with the participation of Dr. Ahmad Hassan El Borai, former minister of labor force, Mr. Mohamad Anouar El Sadate, president of the Reform and Development Party, Mr. Farid Zahran, president of the Social Democratic Party, Mr. Medhat El Zahed, president of the Socialist Alliance Party, Eng. Ahmad Bahaa Shaabane, president of the Egyptian Socialist Party under establishment and Mr. Salah Adly, secretary general of the Egyptian Communist Party.
Once the conference started, electricity was cut all over Qasr El Aini street, a fact that rarely happens as this street includes number of official bodies such as the headquarter of the cabinet of ministers, the Parliament and number of ministries.
Participants pursued the celebration on the light of candles after having observed a minute of silence for the soul of the Egyptian working class martyrs. The conference reconfirmed its commitment to fight for the rights of workers in order to live in a society implementing the slogan of the 25th of January Revolution: Bread, Freedom, Social Justice and Human Dignity. It also rejected the obstacles hampering the freedom of organizing in independent trade unions and addressed a message of solidarity with the hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli jails.
Six of the workers at the Authority of Public Transports were deferred to court in March 2017 after the prosecution office lost its power of renewing their temporary imprisonment. Some of them were released on different dates; however, Mohamad Abdel Khalek Awadallah and Ayman Abdel Tawab Salem remained imprisoned for six consecutive months after being released by court decision on March 23 under precautionary measures that were extended to 45 days by the Giza Court of Delinquency. Therefore, precautionary measures aiming at preventing escape of the accused or falsification of proofs turned into severe punishment.
It is important to note that an unknown security body had arrested the six workers from their homes without any official authorization from the prosecution office.
Mohamad Mohamad Bedeir El Sayed El Abd, computer writer at the financial department of El Nasr Company for Weaving and Spinning never expected that the publication on his Face Book page of an opinion poll among workers about the role played by the weaving and spinning general trade union would lead to his termination from work by the president of the company without any explanation.
This decision was adopted the same day the legal department presented a memo against the worker, reflecting thus the convergence of interests between the formal “governmental” trade union and boards of directors to the extent that the latter spends every efforts in order to protect the general trade union from any kind of criticism.
In contradiction with the judgments of the High Constitutional Court forbidding to transfer or send members of trade unions outside the city where they work for more than fifteen days without their written approval, the committee for settling disputes at the Ministry of Education refused on May 16 the grievance complaint presented by Ahmed Abdel Mordi, president of the independent trade union at the General Authority of Adult Education for being arbitrary transferred from Cairo to the city of Kafr El Sheikh in the governorate of Qalioubiah.
This decision came as a response to the request of the memo addressed by the General Federation of Workers Trade Unions that contests the legality of the independent trade union registered under the Ministry of Labor Force since 2011. The President of the General Authority of Adult Education wanted also to get rid from the headache caused by the independent trade union constantly requesting the improvement of workers’ salaries. Moreover, he ordered to take measures in order to recover the membership fees that were deduced from the salaries of workers upon their consent for the benefit of the independent trade union. This represents a flagrant violation of Egyptian commitment to the ILO Convention 98/1949 that becomes part of the national legislation according to Article 93 of 2014 Constitution.
After one year, the trial of the maritime arsenal’s workers did not reach a solution; since 24th May 2016, they are exposed to collective punishment for having organized a peaceful sit-in on 22 and 23 May requesting the application of minimum wages adopted by the government after the company applied the principle for six months only. Other requests included the reanimation of closed workshops, providing industrial security to guarantee the safety of workers, implementing the process of promotion, readjusting the system of accounting incentives, increasing the bonuses of the month of Ramadan and the Feast, reimbursing the debts of the company to the workers’ fund whose fees are directly deducted from their salaries.
As a consequence of this sit-in, 26 workers are currently under trial by a military court according to article 124 of the Penal Code and the accusations formulated against them by the military prosecution in the capacity of being civil servants at Alexandria Company of Maritime Arsenal affiliated to the Agency of Maritime Industries and Services registered at the Ministry of Defense. They were charged of instigating their colleagues in the various departments of the Company to abstain from work by calling for an assembly and organizing a sit-in inside the company in order to obstruct work and break its regularity with the purpose of achieving the demands registered in the report of the company’s department of security affairs.
The prosecution considered that this action was a direct aggression against one of the institutions cited above despite the fact that Alexandria Maritime Arsenal is not included in Article 204 of the Constitution that refers to the cases allowing that civilians be judged by military courts. Moreover, peaceful strike or sit-in could not be considered by any means a direct aggression but it is rather the practice of a constitutional right that should not be overcome.
On the base of these accusations, workers were deferred to the tribunal under trial 2759/2016; however, since the case was withhold to deliver the judgement on 2nd August 2016 after the Court heard all witnesses as well as the lawyers pleading; despite the resignation of workers in order to be released, they are still waiting for the judgment as the Court decided on 25th May 2017 to postpone the judgment for the twelve consecutive time until 20 June 2017.
This crisis is not limited to the 26 workers deferred to trial but extends to include over one thousand workers forbidden to reintegrate work, living with their families without any income under a harsh economic situation and ignoring totally the company’s plan and measures regarding their situation.
The request presented by the two elected board members to represent workers, Mr. Omar Moussa Shaabane and Engineer Reda Abdel Latif, to the Board of the Company of Cairo International Airport – affiliated to the State owned Egyptian Holding Company of Airports – in order to discuss the incentives of workers in June 2016 was immediately violently refused by the chairman of the Board. The two men were then deferred to inquiry under the pretext of causing troubles and instigating to strike after which five days of their salaries were deducted. Later on Mr. Shaabane was transferred from the sector of operations to the sector of engineering in order to get rid of his membership in the Board and avoid his constant demands for the benefit of his colleagues. Following this decision, he presented a complaint to the general department of legal affairs at the Ministry of Labor Force who sent in turn a letter to the chairman of the Board on 22 October 2016 requesting to stop the transfer considered as illegal.
The presence of the two men in the Board has become unbearable either for the previous chairman or his successor who both picked any occasion to get rid of them; thus, Engineer Reda Abdel Latif was promptly transferred to the Egyptian Holding Company of Airports.
When Shaabane expressed his solidarity with Engineer Reda Abdel Latif in his account on social media, he was summoned to appear before the inquiry department of the Egyptian Company of Airports on 29th May 2017 to be questioned about what he wrote, considered as an instigation against the chairman of the Board.
On April 3, the workers of administrative security at Tora Cement Factory entered in a sit-in against the termination of their services after a duration of work ranging between ten and fifteen years while they had constantly requested to obtain permanent positions. According to their salaries and the registrars of the company, these workers are paid on a daily base since 2013. However, they discovered in 2008 that they have been affiliated to Ahmad Osman Company for Public Entrepreneurship. There, they contacted the general trade union to prove their right to obtain permanent positions at Tora Cement Factory and the trade union advised them to take legal procedures against the administration; actually, they obtained a favorable judgment from the Tribunal but on the photocopy of the judgement executive measures, the name of Tora Cement Factory was erased; this led them to file a complaint for falsification at the office of the general prosecutor.
The administration refused to implement the judgment and the workers begun their sit-in that lasted for 55 days ending with the invasion of the company by police forces and the arrest of 32 workers who were submitted to torture in Maadi police station. They were then deferred for investigation under the accusation of resisting the security force and aggressing them during implementing the order of arrest and appearance. The prosecution in turn deferred them on May 26 to the Court that postponed the first session to the 3rd of June for incapability of transferring the workers to the tribunal, a pretext used to prolong the duration of litigation. On the 4th of June they were sentenced to three year of jail.
The Center for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS)
5th June 2017