CTUWS Calls for Independent Unions and Dissolution of ETUF

Just got this message in my email from the Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services (CTUWS) in Egypt. They are calling for the Cabinet to disband the ETUF, the government-run trade union federation under Mubarak and call for the recognition of independent unions, which have been growing stronger since the revolution.

Message to the Egyptian Cabinet of Ministers

The Egyptian Government is Strongly Invited Now to Support the Right of the Egyptian Workers to
Establish Their Trade Unions Freely

The trade union freedoms’ dossier is currently presented to the Cabinet of Ministers. the dossier contains two essential issues: the new Law on Trade Union Freedoms and dissolving Mubarak’s trade union institution called the Egyptian Trade Union Federation “ETUF”. It is assumed that the Cabinet’s Legislative Committee will discuss the draft law submitted by the Ministry of Manpower, while the Cabinet and particularly Dr. Aly el Salmy the Vice Prime Minister in charge of the democratic change affairs in the new cabinet will consider ETUF’s case.

The “old official federation’ organized a strong counter campaign supported by its allies from Mubarak’s regime in governmental administrations, the public business sector and some businessmen. The ETUF organized two demonstrations in front of the Military Council and the Ministry of Manpower on 19 and 26 July accompanied by a media campaign which included statements, a press conference and paid advertisements in national and independent newspapers.

In the context of that fierce campaign, ETUF’s leaders arranged a meeting with Dr. Aly el Salmy the Vice Prime Minister to stop the issuance process of the new law and to defend the existence of this organization which bears all the mistakes and transgressions of Mubarak’s regime because the ETUF considers this law a direct threat to its oppressive system without which it cannot exist! Al Ahram Daily newspaper published in its issue yesterday (Sunday 31/7/2011) the news of a meeting to be held Wednesday between Dr. Aly el Salmy the Vice Prime Minister and ETUF’s Board of Directors chaired by Ismail Fahmy. The Newspaper considered this meeting “a step towards stability and tranquility after the sit-ins which ETUF had organized against the Minister of Manpower and asking him to resign”.
The Newspaper added that “it is decided that ETUF’s essential demands include stopping the issuance of the law on trade union freedoms which the Minister of Manpower has referred to the Cabinet and stopping any procedures that affect the role of ETUF and its trade unions”. This comes, according to Al Ahram Newspaper “at the same time while the Minister of Manpower Dr. Ahmed el Borae’i referred to the Cabinet 175 final court sentences annulling the trade union elections of the present term (2006-2011) and the election procedures and their results in a number of trade union committees (plant unions). The Minister asked the Cabinet to take the necessary procedures regarding these cases”. The Newspaper added that “an important report presented to the Cabinet by a sovereign body revealed that most of the participants in the demonstration of Tuesday organized by the ETUF against the Minister of Manpower were members of the dissolved National Party and supporters of the previous regime”.

Regardless to the denial by the Cabinet of the assumed meeting with ETUF’s leaders (who have apparently provided the editor with the news) and although ETUF’s counter campaign had succeeded only to disclose ETUF’s own weakness and helplessness, there are a number of facts which should be highlighted:

The ETUF, in an attempt to distort the facts, presents the matter intentionally as a dispute with the Minister of Manpower and Immigration. The real dispute, which lasted for several decades, is the dispute between the Egyptian workers and this organization which has always been a tool of the regime for oppression, domination and corruption. The Egyptian workers are deprived for many years of their right to form their trade unions and to form independent trade union organizations and movements. They went in successive strikes during the last four years in an unprecedented manner because, very simply, they lacked the trade unions which express their interests and negotiate on them. The Egyptian workers used to sit-in and spend nights with their families and children in front of the Parliament for long days and months looking for someone to hear their voice. They requested the Manpower Committee of the Parliament to convene and consider their suspended cases and negotiate with them to reach solutions and agreements. They withdrew their confidence from ETUF, sent their withdrawal from its membership and asked to stop deduction subscriptions from their salaries, but it was in vain. They asked to solve the plant committees in every strike and demonstration, but it was in vain. Those workers are the genuine and original party in the dispute; they are the owners of the right to form their independent trade unions which nobody should surrender or compromise.
It is indispensable to abide by the international labour standards and guarantee the Egyptian workers’ right to form their independent trade unions which is due and is critically needed since June 2008. If the Minister of Manpower is fully aware of the need to fulfill this right after removing the name of Egypt from the ILO’s list of individual cases based upon the approach of the Government of Egypt towards democracy and transparency after the revolution, this government should not remain captive to the corrupt system and institutions of the previous regime. The government should not be embezzled by this organization which, as everybody knows, was not a federation of unions but an arm to restrict and suffocate the labour movement. It has never been a representative of the workers’ interests or a negotiator for them, but it was a representative of the regime and its tool amongst the rank and file.

The ETUF did not “organize protest sit-ins on 19 and 26 July” but made corrupt moves using the mechanisms of its usual political corruption during the days of Mubarak including using money from public funds and from the public business sector, spreading lies and misleading information, mobilizing hired individuals and paying money for protestors.

For these reasons, we call upon the Cabinet not only to refuse to be embezzled by these corrupt moves, but also to urgently investigate the facts of using buses from the public business sector to transport persons to the gathering points and to Qubba on 19 July and in front of the Ministry of Manpower on 26 July and considering the day of the protests as a paid day because they performed “an official mission”. We want the investigation to discover the collaborators with ETUF from the members of the dissolved National Party and the supporters of the previous regime who defend the continuity of the toppled regime with its individuals and institutions. There are confirmed information that buses from the Iron and Steel Co.. Al Mahalla Spinning Co. and Tanta Oils and Soap Co. had been used according to registered routing. Buses No. GYD 165 (from the Ministry of Military Production) and Nos. QYD 697, QYD 687 and QYD 682 (from the Social Services Association of Banque du Caire) were used to transport protestors to the Ministry of Manpower.

Isn’t it similar to what happened at the Camel Battle in which Hussein Megawer ETUF’s President is accused of transporting people to participate in that event? He also misled workers in some sites and told them that they will defend labour issues, but they left when they discovered that they were misled. The cheers used by ETUF’s individuals were more to insults than being labour mottos.

While we call upon the Cabinet to accelerate the issuance of the Law on Trade Union Freedoms and take a decision regarding the ETUF to stop its corrupt practices, we emphasize that this is not only a demand of the Egyptian revolution to dissolve the old regime institutions because they were part of the oppressive and corrupt regime, but also a realization of the demands of Egyptian workers who started the zero count four years ago. Moreover, it is an indispensible necessity for achieving social justice which cannot be realized without enabling social parties to express their interests and negotiate on them and having the organizational tools necessary for social negotiations: the independent trade unions.

The unforgettable lesson of the revolution is the dramatic collapse of the regime which was thought to be a solid one. Its collapse was a logical result of the point of imbalance which the Egyptian society reached and which pushed millions of citizens to the streets when they found that it was impossible to continue to live as they used to do.

It is impossible to realize security and democracy in Egypt without regaining social balance, including those who were marginalized economically, socially and culturally to have an interest in the stability and security of the country and realizing social justice to secure honorable life and decent work in order to open the doors of hope which seemed impossible for many of the Egyptians.

To take a step forward towards social justice and equilibrium between the rights, interests and life opportunities, we have to open the door for social dialogue and collective negotiations in order to realize a degree of rational balance between the contradicted interests.

The Government of Egypt in its new formation promised to be more sensitive and more responsive to the attitudes of the popular revolution. We, as well as many other Egyptians, believe and hope that this government is more comprehending to the core concept of the democratic society which we want to reach and which is not restricted to the legislative and presidential elections albeit their importance. It is the democratic society which provides all its sectors and categories with the opportunities and tools to express and defend their interests, monitor their resources, participate in and affect decision making and distribute its revenues. It is the society which protects negotiation mechanisms in order to secure a minimum level of balance between the social parties.

The Government of Egypt is very strongly required to support the right of the Egyptian workers to form their trade unions freely. While we address this message to the government, we call upon all the democratic powers to consolidate with our demand and to cooperate with us to achieve this right.

Please address your call with us for the democratic rights of the Egyptian workers,

For the immediate issuance of the Law on Trade Union Freedoms, and

For dissolving the Egyptian Trade Union Federation which dominated and oppressed the workers for many decades.

The Center for Trade Union and Workers Services
Tuesday 2/8/2011

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