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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An American Trade Unionist in Egypt 2: We All Know Our Way Back to Tahrir Square

By Carl Finamore

Carl Finamore

Carl Finamore

CAIRO—As much as the Egyptian military would like it otherwise, recent days have shown that they are a long way from exerting control over the country’s affairs. The Egyptian people are not quite ready to put their dreams for a better future on hold nor have their pent-up frustrations put back into a box.

Certainly not since people’s power just toppled a dictator thought invincible only a few weeks ago.

The street protests centered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square have now spread all across Egypt, as labor unrest grows. Thousands of workers belonging to local units of the government-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), who largely work in the public sector, are even striking and protesting, right alongside their unorganized brothers and sisters in the private sector.

In addition, new independent unions are forming. The latter are determined to be democratically controlled by their members instead of by a government and state constitution that only recognized unions considered reliable and obedient to the ruling politicians.

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