Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Police forcefully shut down independent Labor Day conference: Organizers relocate

Mada Masr
Routes to Journalists Syndicate blocked to prevent independent Labor Day conference, organizers relocate

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Pesha Magid and Jano Charbel 

Security forces blocked the downtown Cairo streets leading to the Journalists Syndicate ahead of a planned Labor Day conference to be held at the syndicate and organized by independent trade unions.

The conference, called “United for Union Freedoms,” was to take place at 5 pm inside the Journalist’s Syndicate and aimed to address the grievances of independent unions and discuss their proposed amendments to existing trade union and labor laws.

Hundreds of police personnel were stationed in the vicinity of the syndicate, according to a Mada Masr reporter who arrived at there around 5.30 pm for the conference. Security forces near the syndicate included riot police, armed police and security personnel in civilian clothing, as well as riot police trucks, Central Security Forces trucks and prisoner transport vehicles.

The reporter stated that security forces would not allow people to enter the syndicate unless they were carrying a syndicate membership card, and that they were blocking off Abdel Khalek Tharwat Street and Champollion Streets.

The conference leaders relocated the conference Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services on Qasr al-Aini Street, where over a hundred attendees gathered.

Earlier in the day a protest was called in front of the Journalists Syndicate by the Coordinating Solidarity group, a coalition of syndicates that formed to protest against the Civil Service Law. The group posted on its official webpage that police had forcefully prevented the event.

“Labor leaders gathered to participate in a demonstration planned by Coordinating Solidarity to mourn workers on Labor Day, but police prevented them from reaching the Journalists Syndicate,” wrote Coordinating Solidarity. “The police stated that they were preventing workers from gathering in front of the syndicate.”

The decision to block access to the Journalists Syndicate follows a similar decision on April 25, when demonstrations were planned to protest of ceding of the Red Sea Islands Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia. Journalists were prevented from entering the syndicate and security forces blocked public streets leading to the syndicate.

The Journalists Syndicate had filed a formal complaint against the Interior Ministry and Cairo Security Directorate for violations against journalists on that day. Violations included the arbitrary detention of journalists as well as allegations that the security services deployed plainclothes police officers, who attempted to storm the syndicate’s headquarters while denouncing the journalists inside as traitors and foreign agents.

The Front to Defend Egyptian Protesters published a report documenting 1,277 arrests across 22 Egyptian cities between April 15 and April 27, which was the period of the popular mobilization against Egypt’s decision to transfer of the two islands to Saudi Arabia.

Labor unrest has been increasing countrywide over the past year. In 2015, 1,117 strikes and other industrial actions were reported, according to Egyptian NGO Democracy Meter, and between January and April 493 labor actions were reported. "This currently represents an average of six industrial actions each day, and a 25 percent increase in such labor unrest in comparison to the same period last year,” the NGO wrote on May 1.

The state also continues to crack down on independent trade unions, while further restricting freedoms of association.

*Photos by Jano Charbel

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