Saturday, October 11, 2008

Egypt's Real Estate Tax Employees Organize Themselves & Establish the Nation's First Independent Trade Unions Since the 1950s

Egypt's real estate tax workers/employees have been actively and continuously organizing for their rights since last year. In October 2007 around 55,000 real estate employees across the country took part in a strike demanding parity (in wages & benefits) with their co-workers employed by the Ministry of Finance. After several months of ongoing strike action the ministry was forced to grant the real estate tax employees their demands - in December/January 2007. The wages of these striking employees rose by well over 300% as a result of their concerted efforts.

The real estate tax employees organized their labor struggles through an independent strike committee chosen from amongst their local leaderships. This strike committee has sought to organize the real estate tax employees into an independent general union/federation. Egyptian law (specifically trade union law #35/1976) does not allow for any union organization outside the ranks of the yellow, state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (the only national trade union federation recognized by law.)

The independent real estate tax employees are challenging the repressive trade union law and are organizing free trade union committees beyond the restrictive realms of the unrepresentative ETUF. During the summer of 2008 real estate tax employees in the southern Egyptian province of Beni Suef established the first independent trade union committee since the 1950s. Most recently on (October 11/12, 2008) the real estate tax employees in the Nile Delta province of El Beheira announced their establishment of another free trade union committee in that governorate.

This is a very promising development. This is an uphill struggle for the right of the working classes to freely organize themselves in Egypt.

Freedom for Egypt's workers! Liberty and independence for Egypt's trade unions!

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