Egypt needs an ILO-compliant labour law

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Egypt needs an ILO-compliant labour law

Unions across Egypt and the world are calling on the Egyptian Prime Minister to finally give Egyptian workers their fundamental rights at work, by passing a labour law based on ILO standards.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber has written to the Egyptian Prime Minister Sharaf, calling on him to tear up his country's repressive labour laws and put in place a law finally giving workers a real voice through independent and democratic trade unions.

To show your solidarity with trade unions in the Middle East, including in Egypt, please donate to the TUC Aid Middle East and North Africa Appeal

9 September 2011

Mr Essam Sharaf

Prime Minister, Egypt

Dear Prime Minister

Egypt - trade union rights

I am writing to you on behalf of the British Trades Union Congress to express our concern regarding the continued lack of trade union rights in Egypt. For years, workers have struggled for the creation of decent work in a country where low wages and abysmal working conditions were the norm. The near total absence of independent trade unions made changing that situation extremely difficult, leaving millions of workers with little hope for a better life.

Important changes are now underway. Earlier this month, the interim government disbanded the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) board, effectively ending the hegemony of the official trade union and opening up space for independent trade unions to form and to operate openly. The interim government also recently instituted a new minimum wage of 700 LE to take effect in October 2011 for most employers in most sectors. These moves are welcome.

However, we remain deeply concerned that two laws which severely restrict trade union freedoms remain in place today, namely the Trade Unions Act No. 35/1976 and Decree No. 34/2011, which criminalises strikes. I understand that the Labour Minister has recently circulated a draft of a new Freedom of Association Law. We urge you to ensure that the law fully complies with International Labor Organisation (ILO) Convention 87 and Convention 98, and is the result of full consultation with social partners, especially including independent trade unions.

Passing such a law would finally give workers a voice through joining and running their own independent and democratic trade unions. This voice is an essential part of any mature system of industrial relations, the key driver in modernising and restructuring Egyptian industry to create decent and productive employment. This voice also has a vital role to play in national policy-making and promoting good governance, especially during this period of transition.

Egypt's workers have waited far too long to see their fundamental rights realized in law and practice. We sincerely hope that they need not have to wait much longer.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely

BRENDAN BARBER

General Secretary

Briefing
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