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Egypt steps back on workers’ rights

4 December, 2012Egypt’s new draft Constitution will treat workers like criminals and bring unions under tight government control as they were under the Mubarak dictatorship.

Violations of international freedom of association standards in Egypt’s new draft Constitution will be voted on in a 15 December referendum.

The Constitution would reinforce the new law on unions, already signed by President Morsi, which allows only one union per sector, and gives the government sweeping powers to control union activity and have unions dissolved by the courts where they “do not comply with the law”.

A law on “Revolution Protection” will make workers subject, like any other criminal, to face jail if they strike or stop work. The provisions on banning strikes include penalties of 2 years in prison and fines. These articles already exist and workers have been calling for them to be abolished. Instead, the proposed Constitution makes the law worse by giving prosecutors the right to detain workers for 6 month even before trial.

It also bans people over 60 years old from serving on union executive bodies, and allows the Labour Minister to hand-pick replacements for people removed under that law. Provisions which would have supported women’s rights have also been struck out of the draft Constitution.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has written calling on President Mohamed Morsi (http://www.ituc-csi.org/egypt-mubarak-mark-ii.html ) to ensure that both Egypt’s laws and Constitution give full effect to international human rights, and in particular the fundamental rights of workers.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary said, “The international trade union movement had tremendous hope for a new Egypt following the revolution and was excited that our brothers and sisters might at last have a chance to build a vibrant, democratic trade union movement. There is no question that the proposed Constitution and new trade union law present a serious setback to realizing that goal.”