Sunday, March 25, 2012

UK labor activists condemn attacks on Egypt workers’ movement

MENA Solidarity Network
Egypt: UK trade union leaders and MPs condemn attacks on workers’ movement

March 7, 2012

MPs and trade union leaders expressed their deep concern today at a recent series of attacks on independent trade unionists and activists in Egypt.

Over the past few weeks there have been a number of high profile cases where independent trade unionists and their supporters have faced physical attacks and legal harassment because of their worker defending Egyptians’ right to strike and organise unions free
from state control.

Leaders of the Independent Public Transport Authority Workers Union were attacked by knife-wielding thugs, apparently affiliated to the old pro-Mubarak Land Transport Union inside the Public Transport Authority headquarters as they were attending a meeting with PTA officials to present workers’ demands on 29 February, sources in the
Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions told MENA Solidarity Network.

In another development, Kamal Abbas, coordinator of the Centre for Trade Union and Workers’ Services, has been sentenced to 6 months in jail for criticisms he made of Isma’il Fahmy of the old state-run Egyptian Trade Union Federation at a meeting in Geneva last year. The sentence, which was handed out in absentia, has drawn protests from the International Trade Union Congress, the TUC and a number of UK trade unions.

Meanwhile police violence against strikers and harassment of trade unionists by the security services continues to escalate. Striking court workers in Suez were attacked by police and army wielding electric batons last week. The security services have run a number of smear campaigns accusing trade unionists and political activists with accepting foreign funding to ’cause chaos’, as the recent arrest of
textile worker Kamal Fayoumy illustrates.

John McDonnell MP said “I was outraged to hear of the charges against Kamal Abbas and the attack on the leadership of the Independent Public Transport Authority Workers’ Union. These assaults are not just an attack on the individuals concerned, but an attempt to undermine the advances workers have made through the revolution. I am urging my colleagues in Parliament and the British trade union movement to give their full support to the campaign to defend the independent trade unions in Egypt.”

Katy Clark MP added “It is deeply troubling that independent trade unionists continue to face violence and harassment from state forces in Egypt. It is essential that trade unionists are able to stand up for their members without fear or intimidation and I urge the Egyptian authorities to ensure that all repressive action against trade unionists is brought to an end”

Unjum Mirza, Political Officer for RMT London Region and Secretary of the MENA Solidarity Network commented “There is a pattern developing here. Take these recent attacks on trade unionists and piece them together with the attacks on revolutionaries and the ultras then you’ll see that pattern is forming in the shape of counter-revolution.

It is our urgent task to deliver the necessary solidarity to defend the revolution and the gains made thus far. As transport workers in London we’re proud to have shown our solidarity with colleagues in the Independent Public Transport Authority Workers’ Union during their strikes and protests over the past year.

I was appalled to hear that some of the union’s leading figures who we met in Cairo last May have been seriously injured. The RMT General Secretary Bob Crow and RMT national president Alex Gordon are backing this campaign and will be writing to the Egyptian ambassador in protest at this concerted assault on independent trade unionists.”

Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the civil servants’ PCS union has also signed the letter.

Read the text of the letter to the Egyptian Ambassador here: Add your signature in solidarity.


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