Egypt: New Draft Trade Union Law Suppresses Freedom of Association

A draft law submitted to Egypt’s parliament today represents a drastic violation of ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association, effectively institutionalising the government-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation as the sole union body for the county. The draft law sets membership threshold requirements for independent trade unions which would make it impossible for them to develop and operate effectively, and voids the right of trade unions to determine their own rules and structures.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said “this law is a flagrant violation of the fundamental right of workers to organise, and effectively means that the government controlled ETUF would be the only organisation allowed to operate. Workers would be deprived of the possibility to defend their own interests and to negotiate fair wages and decent working conditions. It represents a strengthening of government control over working people, and means that huge numbers of Egyptian workers will be trapped in poverty and in precarious and hazardous work. We call on the Egyptian authorities to withdraw the draft law and instead bring forward legislation that complies with ILO standards.”

The move to place the bill before parliament this week is seen as a way to pre-empt an ILO mission which is expected to visit Egypt next week. The bill bans independent unions from receiving international support, limits their financial independence, imposes unacceptable eligibility requirements for election to union executive committees and requires the presence of government officials during union elections.