Monday, June 27, 2016
A historic case seeking to outlaw Egypt’s independent trade unions, in which a verdict was due Sunday, was referred to the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC.)
The Administrative Court, which had initially been hearing this case, has also asked the SCC to review the constitutionality of several provisions of the 1976 trade union law in relation to the case.
According to defense lawyer Khaled Ali, the referral represents “a victory for the labor movement and rights.”
In February, the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) - including leaders of finance, tax and insurance unions - had filed a lawsuit against independent unions before the Administrative Court, citing that the existing trade union law only recognizes the ETUF, which was established in 1957.
The ETUF and affiliates have been seeking to outlaw independent trade unions and federations since the 2011 popular uprising, which challenged the historic monopoly of the state-controlled federation, despite the 2014 Egyptian Constitution stating, “The law shall guarantee the right to establish syndicates and unions on a democratic basis,” and, “the state shall guarantee the independence of syndicates and unions.”
According to the International Labor Organization’s (ILO’s) 105th conference in Geneva this month, Egypt’s trade union law is incompatible with both the ILO’s convention on freedom of association and on the right to organize, both of which were ratified by the Egyptian State in the 1950s and have not been upheld.
The ETUF has accused independent unions of being “illegal” and “illegitimate,” instigating labor unrest, and representing a “threat to national security,” as well as not being representative of Egypt’s trade unions or workers. It also cites a US plan by George W. Bush for the Middle East, accusing independent unions of receiving illegal foreign funding in US Dollars and Euros.
The state-controlled federation has also accused independent unions of aiming to destroy the state and national economy, “destroying moral principles” and being agents of Zionism.
However, independent unions have repeatedly dismissed such claims from the ETUF - as being baseless attempts to tarnish their image.
At the ILO conference in Geneva, independent unionists reiterated that the state-controlled federation has remained un-elected since the expiry of its term in 2011, with its leadership being directly appointed by the Ministry of Manpower and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi extending this by a year, ending in May.