Labor Unions Under Attack in Morsi’s Egypt

by Ian Hartshorn

Egyptian worker demonstration March 2011

Egyptian worker demonstration March 2011

While many have focused on Mohamed Morsi’s recent actions toward the Judiciary and Constituent Assembly, the Egyptian president has quietly consolidated power over institutions affecting the lives of millions of workers, namely, Egypt’s labor unions.

A day after giving himself vast new constitutional powers on November 22, Morsi amended the country’s 46-year-old trade union law. The decree represents a major shift in a fundamental Egyptian institution.  It also suggests the continuation of the Muslim Brotherhood’s growing influence on a movement it has long ignored.

Targeting Trade Unions

At first blush, Morsi’s amendment may seem benign. It limits board membership in trade unions to those under sixty years of age. It also extends current union boards for an additional six months after which new elections will be held. In the interim, the Minister of Labor will be allowed to fill any vacancies.

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