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Labor Rights

Trade Unions Law and Executive Regulations Contravene the Constitution and International Conventions

After a deliberate reading of the Trade Union Law, we have found that the interference in the trade unions’ affairs starts with the introduction of the law, whether by the law itself or by the Minister of Manpower. The Ministry’s dominance persists over many of the trade union affairs. The interference is not only through the executive regulations as well as the guiding regulations introduced by the Minister of Manpower, but also it is expected that the Manpower Ministry’s officials firstly impose these regulations on the trade unions, whether during submitting the documents to regularize the status of the independent unions or to establish unions. Fundamentally, these regulations will be applied on the trade unions affiliated to Egypt Trade Union Federation; the largest bloc of trade unions that have not been affected by the law. This is in violation of the Constitution and Article 3 of ILO Convention No. 87 of 1948.

 

We also have figured out that some onerous conditions, in violation of the agreements, had been laid down for the purpose of making the trade unions and personal federations earn profits; violating Articles 2 & 7 of ILO Convention 87.

Despite the development related to canceling the joining of grassroots unions to general ones or federations- which was stipulated in the previous law- most of the powers have remained the right of organizations at the top of the trade union pyramid, in violation of Article 2 of the Convention No. 98 of the year 1949 as well as Article 8 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

We also found that many workers’ groups were denied the right to unionize, in violation of the Constitution, and all conventions.

In violation of the Constitution, covenants and conventions, the penalties-related articles of the law stipulated the punishment of workers for the exercise of their right to association; this is considered the maximum punishment for law violations, as stipulating imprisonment and fines penalties for the exercise of the right to association has not been set forth before even for those who commit grave violations of the right to association and collective bargaining.

The law also clearly distinguished between the (pro-regime) Egypt Trade Unions Federation and the independent unions that were set up after the revolution, in flagrant violation of Article 2 of the Convention No. 98 of 1949.

The rules of the law and the executive regulations maintain certain leaders that reached the age of retirement. Also, the regulations granted a lot of powers to the president of the union and the secretary-general through which they can run the committee away from the general assembly and the board of directors of the union. This is in violation of Article 2 of ILO Convention No. 98 of 1949.  

It also turned out that the law opens the door to the manipulation of trade union elections through the presence of trade union organizations as part of the electoral process administration, although they would run in the elections. Moreover, litigation was also transferred from the State Council, which was fair to trade unionists that are exposed to arbitrariness, to the labor courts with conditions that make litigation begins after the electoral process ends, opposed to what was taking place in the past. This is in violation of Article 3 of Convention No. 87 of 1948.

In violation of Article 98 of the Convention No. 98 of 1949, the law and all regulations stipulate that the subsidies paid by the state to the union are part of the means of financing the union, without setting forth any specific rules for the disbursement of these subsidies. Such a matter threatens the ways of disbursing them by the state so as to control the unions.

This is in addition to laying down the foundations for transforming the meetings of the General Assembly into nominal ones that are controlled by a small number of its Board of Directors’ members. The guiding regulations also severely restricted the right to strike in union committees.

The administrative guiding regulations also opened the way to the president of the union to be remunerated for his trade union activity, in violation of other articles.

First: Preference for Certain Federations & Trade Unions

Both Articles 2 and 3 of the Law 213 clearly discriminate between Egypt Trade Unions Federation and the independent trade unions; most of which were established and their papers had been submitting to the Ministry of Manpower from March 2011 until the promulgation of the law. These articles oblige the independent trade unions to regularize their status at the time that the unions of Egypt Federation were exempt from doing that.

Second: Depriving Some Groups of the Rights to Association & Representation

Article 2 of Law 213 stipulates that “except for the armed forces, police and other statutory bodies, the law shall apply to: …”, which may explain the lack of eligibility of civil servants working in these bodies to form or join trade unions while their counterparts working in other institutions enjoy the same right. This is in addition to depriving the military personnel themselves along with those were mentioned in the conventions and covenants of their right to association with restrictions, and it has not yet been mentioned the way to organize their unions.

Pensioners were also denied the right to association, as they were not mentioned in the Article relating to the right to association.

Despite the provision of the right of irregular employment to establish trade union organizations in Law 213, the Executive Regulation deprives most of them of this right. Article 1 of the Regulation defines the irregular worker as each worker who performs irregular work in nature to others for remuneration.

Also, Article 42 of the Executive Regulation sets out conditions that prevent uninsured workers from being members of the union at the time of regularizing the status. It stipulates that the documents submitting to regularize the status shall include a detailed statement- approved by the union and social insurance- has the names and information of the members.

Article 41 of the Law, concerning the conditions of candidacy for a trade union organization, excludes any groups that have temporary employment. All the guiding regulations have come with the same exclusion.

Third: Onerous Conditions on the Exercise of the Right to Association

Articles 11 & 12 of the Law laid down onerous conditions for the establishment of a trade union committee, a general union or a general federation, especially in the current situation.

Moreover, Article 13 stipulates the right to establish a regional or qualitative union of the general federation, while it deprives the grassroots unions of that right.

Fourth: Criminalizing the Exercise of the Right to Association

Although Article 2 of the Convention No. 87 of 1948 stipulates the right to establish trade unions without being subject to its rules and prior authorization, we figured out that the law laid down impossible conditions for the recognition of trade unions, and the penalties chapter criminalizes and threaten to imprison and fine anyone who practices this right away from the law.

In the event that it is not possible to implement the requirements of the law and the workers think over founding any alternative form such as association, this is a criminal offense by virtue of Article 67 of Law 213.

According to Article 68, any simple mistake in any of the many statements required for the establishment of all members of the union can lead to imprisonment and a fine between five to twenty thousand pounds.

Fifth: Interference in Affairs of Trade Union Organizations

1-The Law interferes in every detail of the union affairs

With regard to the Law, its dominance began from Article 1, which has definitions that imposed a specific line on the formations of trade union organizations in the form of a trade union committee of the organization, a professional association in the governorate or city, general union or general federation. Moreover, they imposed specific formations within the trade union organizations in terms of the general assembly, the board of directors of the organization and the bureau, so as to commit the trade unions to sticking to these forms only. Article 10 of the Law confirms adherence to the levels established by Article 1.

Article 21 also constitutes interference, as it lays down conditions for the membership of trade union organizations; its Paragraph (H) infringes upon the freedom of the member to join more than one trade union organization. The Article 23 member forces the members to enter a trade union organization that they do not choose to join, and does not grant them the right to choose in the event of transfer to another establishment with a union other than what they chose to enter. Further, Article 25 repeated the same interference, as it stipulates the termination of membership conditions without leave the matter to the trade unions themselves.

The Law interfered through laying down the purview of the General Assembly. In Articles 36 and 37, which we have referred to a lot, interference in the internal affairs of the trade union organization, are repeated in determining the number of members of their boards of directors. Article 42 embodies interference in the design and management of the electoral process.

The regulation came to confirm the same interference in the affairs of trade unions, which we referred to earlier in Articles 10, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20.

2-Ministry of Manpower interferes in the trade unions’ affairs

The Article 6 of Law 213 directly interferes in the trade unions’ affairs by the Minister of Manpower that developed models of the regulations, the financial system and the administrative regulations to be guided by. They are expected to oblige the labor union personnel to abide by them, or their unions’ documents would be refused. Therefore, it became mandatory and not indicative; it there a guarantee to prevent it?

Moreover, Article 7 gives the Minister of Manpower the right to resort to the court to dissolve the union, and Article 19 repeats the interference of the Ministry of Manpower in the affairs of the trade union organizations if, within 30 days of the receipt of the documents, it finds that the documents have not been correct or that none of the documents and procedures have been fulfilled, it will inform the representative of the union with that.  These are vague phrases that can be manipulated by. The same text is repeated in Article 15 of the Executive Regulations.

Also, the administration of the electoral process begins with a decision by the Minister of Manpower to determine the date of the elections, which is the Resolution No. 37 of the year 2018. The formation of the general committee is also issued by a decision of the Minister of Manpower according to Article 16 of the Executive Regulations, while Article 17 stipulates the sub-committees of the elections.  

Sixth: Imposing the guardianship of Top Union Organizations on the grassroots trade unions

Articles 15, 16 and 17 of the Law enumerate the purviews of each level, whereas the grassroots trade unions have been placed under the authority and guardianship of the higher organizations and the Board of Directors of the Federation establish the code of ethics that will be applied and punished by the unionists or unions affiliated with the Federation. Also, they limited important topics such as the discussion of draft regulations and laws affecting workers’ interests and rights to the higher organizations.

On the other hand, the Guiding Regulations have also been filled with restrictions imposed on the grassroots trade unions from the higher organizations.

Seventh: Opening the way to the control of certain leaders

Article 40 of the Law opens the door to the control of certain leaders who have reached the retirement age on union organization. The Guiding Regulations also set out the powers to the president of the union and the secretary-general to set the agenda of the general assembly and the board of directors meetings without considering the demands of the members of the assembly; according to Articles 17 and 23 of the Guiding Regulations of the Trade Union Committee, and Articles 19 and 26 of the General Union and General Federation.

Eighth: Loopholes allowing employers to avoid punishment if they infringe the right to association are existed

Both of Articles 47 and 48 do not have an objective criterion for measuring the extent of the employer’s obligation to meet them, as well as the weakness of the penalties in the case of proving the infringement of the rights contained therein compared with the harm to which the workers will be subjected.

Ninth: Opening the way to election manipulation

Article 42 of the Law grants the Minister of Manpower the right to form general committees in the governorates to supervise the electoral process in the whole governorate, headed by a judge or their equivalent, the director of the Directorate of Manpower as a member and a member the trade union organization concerned as a second member. It is not hidden to anyone that the union organization in this case would be the Workers Union, which would be one of the three members of the General Committee in elections whose trade union committees would run the elections under their auspices.

Article 16 of the Executive Regulations came into force with the same formation, adding that the Technical Secretariat of the Committee shall be one of the employees of the administrative apparatus of the state, the public sector, the public business sector, the trade union or one of its affiliated associations. Article 17 of the Regulations also stipulated the electoral sub-committees presidency at the level of establishments shall be among the same groups mentioned above.

What adds fuel to the fire is that all the cases related to the law were transferred to the labor courts after they were within the jurisdiction of the administrative courts, where the workers, in the previous trade union sessions, obtained fair and equitable rulings that enabled them to run in the elections through the urgent sessions of Article 43 of the law. In virtue of the law, the appellant may not appeal before the labor court until they file a complaint to the General Committee and the date of the decision has been reached; which means that they will miss the electoral process in all cases, and they should wait until receiving a fair ruling on how to implement it, especially since the General Federation and the Ministry of Manpower have a history of non-implementation of such provisions.

Tenth: Laying down foundations to transform the general assembly meetings to nominal ones

As for the trade union committee, no mention is made of the purview of the general assembly, as is the case with the general union and the general federation. In Article 11, the Guiding Regulations referred only the “general” phrase, while  Article 12 of the Guiding Regulations of the trade union committee laid down the basis for the possibility of convening the general assembly in any number even if the Board of Directors of the Union only. The situation for the General Union and the General Federation in terms of convening any number is the same.

Also, Article 11 of the Trade Union Committee’s Regulations laid down conditions for the Extraordinary General Meeting of the General Assembly that have not been drawn up for the General Union and the General Federation. If the request is to be held by the General Assembly, the signatures of one third of the members of the General Assembly shall be required to be ratified.

The Regulations imposed on the General Assembly only two resolutions either withdrawal of confidence or separation for the suspended trade unionists, what if the General Assembly considered a third decision to remove the suspension from the member?

Eleventh: Restricting the right to strike especially for the established union

Despite the provisions of Article 54 of the Regulations of the established union concerning the right to strike, it linked its announcement and organization upon a decision by the Board of Directors of the Trade Union Committee and the approval of two-thirds of the General Assembly; it is a difficult condition to get signatures of two thirds of the General Assembly to approve the strike, especially under the laws that criminalize it in different ways.

In addition, the article bore the trade union committee the burden of the strike. It has not specified these burdens, but it stressed that there would be other burdens. The employer may ask the committee in this case for their losses, which are natural consequences of the strike, by claiming implicitly the wages of workers and all their dues throughout the strike. This article is not found in the guidelines of the General Union or the General Federation, as if they are completely reassured by their control over the General Federation or the General Union that they will not go into strike or call for it, and they were concerned about the grassroots committees, which was adopted in many cases strike and stand with its workers in it.

Article 8 of the Executive Regulations also makes matters worse, where the competent minister and any person entitled have the right to appeal to the court to seek the dissolution of the board of directors of the trade union organization and enumerated the reasons for “the issuance of resolutions or instructions that include the use or incitement to the use of force and violence, threats or other unlawful measures to attack the right of others to work,” which is the problem of other illegal measures that can not be construed as an act in order to dissolve the board of directors of the union.

Twelfth: Opening the way to the government to control union organizations:

The subsidies that the government annually approves to trade unions are mentioned in Article 54 of Law 213, and in the Financial Regulations of the Association’s Union in Article 1, provided that no rules of this subsidy are contained in the law or its regulations. This reveals their intention to use them without rules, aiming to subject unions to them so that they can get this subsidy, which will mostly be given only to those that the government will be satisfied with. The same applies to the general unions and the general union in Article 40 of the Regulations.

Thirteenth: Chairman of the union’s board of directors is remunerated in contradiction with the rest of the provisions of the Regulations

 

Article 50 of the of the Trade Union Committee stipulates that a board member shall not be entitled to wages or remuneration under any name for performing trade union activity, but that 4 of the administrative regulations of the three levels have placed the chairman of the union’s board within the workers of the trade union organization is entitled to remuneration for its trade union activities.

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