Daily News Egypt
By Sarah Carr
First Published: January 19, 2009
CAIRO: The Independent General Union of Real Estate Tax Collectors has refuted suggestions made by Hassan Megawer, head of the Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions (EFTU), that the Independent Union was created in violation of the law.
Al-Masry Al-Youm quotes anonymous sources as saying that Megawer has sent a letter to Finance Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali requesting that the Finance Minister not acknowledge the Independent Union, and that he deal exclusively with the General Union of Employees of the Banking, Insurance and Financial Sectors.
This official union is one of the 23 unions created under the umbrella of the state-controlled EFTU.
Workers in various sectors — including real estate tax collectors — are strongly critical of state-controlled trade union bodies which they allege represent the state’s, rather than workers’ interests.
In December 2008 real estate tax collectors announced the formation of the Independent Union.
The union grew out of the committee formed to represent tax collectors’ interests during the successful three-week strike and sit-in they led outside the Finance Ministry at the end of December 2007.
Haitham Mohamedein, the union’s official lawyer, told Daily News Egypt that Megawer made his comments after Ghali sent a letter to the Independent Union.
“The Independent Union sent two letters to the Finance Minister in which it listed various demands,” Mohamedein said.
“Last month Ghali wrote back addressing his letter to ‘the Independent Union’ – thereby acknowledging its existence.
“This acknowledgement made Megawer worried and prompted him to address this demand to Ghali.”
Mohamedein maintains that there is no basis in law for Megawer’s suggestion that Egyptian legislation prohibits the creation of trade unions outside the framework of the official trade union.
“Various treaties ratified by Egypt such as ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association and the right to organize provide for workers’ right to form their own trade union bodies.
“Egyptian Law 35 issued in 1976 meanwhile states that workers have the right to form a trade union body, but within the framework of the EFTU.
“Law 35 is arguably unconstitutional because it conflicts with both Article 56 of the Egyptian Constitution [which provides that ‘the creation of syndicates and unions on a democratic basis is a right guaranteed by law’] and the treaties ratified by Egypt.
“Once ratified, these treaties are incorporated into, and become part of, domestic law.”
Mohamedein suggests that Ghali has no choice but to deal with the Independent Union.
“This organized force is what really represents the real estate tax collectors: the official trade union has consistently shown itself to be ineffective,” Mohamedein explained.
“Tax collectors stand behind the Independent Union – Ghali has no choice but to deal with it.
“Megawer is unable to challenge the Independent Union so he’s gone to the Finance Minister, but if [Megawer] is unable to represent workers’ interests adequately, that’s the EFTU’s problem, not ours.”