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Egyptian workers raise their free voices

9 May, 2013IndustriALL Global Union continues to give support to the free, independent and democratic trade union movement in Egypt through a special education and training program supported by AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center via the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

A first ever two-day planning and assesment seminar was held at the end of April in Cairo with participation of around fifty participants from different sectors within the jurisdiction of IndustriALL.

The seminar welcomed leaders of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU), Kamal Abu Aita, and Egyptian Democratic Labor Confederation (EDLC), Yousri Marouf at opening sessions. Abu Aita and Marouf underlined the importance of global union solidarity in the process of establishing a free and democratic union movement in Egypt.

IndustriALL’s Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan and Member of Executive/Finance Committees Tahar Berberi were also among the attendees explaining policies and practices of the global union at global and regional levels. This led a discussion about major challenges faced by independent unions in the country. State intervention and barriers over collection of union dues, among others, were defined as prominent difficulties in flourishing of the new unions. 

International labour norms and standards were widely discussed by the participants following the presentation of IndustriALL and representative of ILO’s ACTRAV, Mohamed Trabelsi. Trade union rights and liberties were debated within the context of development of labor legislation in Egypt through a presentation by Dr. Rafaat Dessouki from Ainshams University.

The delegates took up union organizing and campaigning using international instruments with an overview on OECD Guidelines and Global Framework Agreements. A number of ongoing labour conflicts and problems were raised by the participants, and follow-up stages through global union solidarity were discussed. IndustriALL’s delegation also visited ongoing pickets organized for Bahayra Company for Land Reclamation and Schlumberger Oilfield Services in the city of Al-Qatemaya.

The delegates worked in groups on the creation of a culture of working together in building national union power and proper structures. IndustriALL’s program will continue with other events in various cities such as Alexandria and Mahalla in the months to come.

IndustriALL Global Union was also part of the May Day March and Demonstration at Tahrir Square in Cairo. Independent trade unions, political parties and civic society organizations combined their forces to voice demands of the Egyptian society under a slogan of “We want to work, we want decent wages and we want free unions”. According to a recent study, labour strikes and social protests have more than doubled since the last presidential elections and are likely to continue doing so.

“IndustriALL Global Union is proud to be present shoulder-to-shoulder with Egyptian workers and society in supporting their demands for real democracy, and genuine human and trade union rights,” said Kemal Özkan, Assistant General Secretary. “Egypt will continue as one of our priority countries, and our special program will extensively continue”.