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IndustriALL deepens its program for independent unions in Egypt

22 July, 2013Just before the famous historic mobilization in Egypt on June 30, IndustriALL Global Union organized two more seminars for workers representatives from energy, textile and garment industries in Alexandria and Mahalla.

The seminars were held within the framework of the global union’s special program to support independent unions in the largest populated Arab country.

The seminar in Alexandria, second largest city in Egypt after Cairo and home city of several independent unions in the jurisdiction of IndustriALL, included 25 participants from different parts of the country in the energy sector. Mosri Salah, representative of EDLC (Egyptian Democratic Labor Confederation) and Mohamed Elgamal, representative of EFITU (Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions) addressed the opening session by thanking IndustriALL for continuous support and emphasizing the importance and need of international solidarity. 

During the two-day seminar, participants were able to express their challenges as independent unions in oil, electricity and mining industries in Egypt. This included subcontracting, employers' resistance of non-recognition for independent unions, companies' approaches on employing wageworkers and rejecting to make decent work contracts. Participants demanded reinstatement of the dismissed workers in companies like PETROJET and Soukari mine.

The second seminar held in Mahalla El Kobra, an important industrial city in the Nile delta, is home of the largest factory in the Middle East called Misr Mahalla for the Textile and Spinning Company. Mahalla is a labour intensive city as it is the home of hundreds of public and private garment factories. Workers of Mahalla are known for their militancy as they played a major role in encouraging Egyptian workers and public to protest against poor working and living conditions during their famous strikes since 2006 and 2008. 

Kamal Alfaioumy and Sayed Habib, two prominent worker leaders at the Mahalla Company, welcomed IndustriALL’s enthusiasm and solidarity as it is the first Global Union to come to the city providing direct support for workers education. The seminar also welcomed Wael Akl, president of IndustriALL’s new Egyptian affiliate General Trade Union of Electricity and Energy which is headquartered in Mahalla. The seminar brought together 25 participants from textile and garment industry from various parts of Egypt.

According to the participants, the textile and garment industry in Egypt witnessed a large number of workers layoffs and early retirement since the nineties until now because of the economic restructuring, privatization and widespread corruption as many factories stopped to work due to poor management. The participants pointed out the lack of organizing capacity in the private sector and absence of collective bargaining. Participants emphasized the need to establish national mechanisms to face the privatization in the sector and re-start the stopped factories as well as applying modern and efficient management of state owned factories.

In both seminars the participants heard new tools of organizing and campaigning within multinational companies such as GFAs and OECD Guidelines for MNCs as well as updates on the recent development of the draft Egyptian Labour Law and Freedom of Association Law. The seminar benefited from the expertise of Dr. Sedat Kaya, special expert from the Turkish textile unions, Dr. Rafaat Dessouki from Ain Shams University and Ahmed Kamel, MENA Regional Consultant of IndustriALL Global Union.

At the end of both seminars, the attendees showed increasing enthusiasm in coordinating efforts, establishing national sectorial unions and networking among workers of the same industry. Also representatives of EDLC and EFITU called on IndustriALL to continue reaching workers in different Egyptian regions for education and campaigning.