By Tamim Elyan
CAIRO: Secretary General of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said Monday that she is optimistic of the future of labor movement in Egypt and will provide support to independent trade unions.
Sharan Barrow hailed the new labor law suggested by Minister of Manpower Ahmed Al-Bora’y, saying it “will end old fights with Egypt”.
“Independent trade unions will build a future for workers in which they guarantee their rights for decent work, minimum wage and collective bargaining,” Barrow told a press conference following her participation in a workshop discussing the future of independent trade unions in Egypt.
Al-Bora’y said during the workshop that the ministry would allow the establishment of independent trade unions with a transparent and open registration process and that it would only facilitate collective bargaining without interference.
Compulsory cuts from workers’ salaries for subscription to trade unions will be cancelled; no financial support will be given to trade unions; and a new law for trade unions’ elections will be issued, the minister added.
The new labor law is based on a draft law prepared by the CTUWS, according to Al-Bora’y.
Barrow said that she had previously declared to the former Minister of Manpower Aisha Abdel Hady that if freedoms of association and collective bargaining weren’t guaranteed, they wouldn’t cooperate with the Egyptian government.
“It is now in the hands of the leaderships of the formal ETUF to implement reforms through democratic elections and fighting corruption. Then workers would decide which union to join,” Barrow said.
ITUC is set to open an office in Cairo to provide support to the Egyptian Independent Trade Union Federation (EITUF) and the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS).
“They have a long road to walk and they need support in training and capacity building, as well as assistance with communications,” Barrow said.
She added that sector protests were a natural response from workers as they found new freedoms at their hands.
“Had there been a minimum wage on which they can live and adequate collective bargaining rights, protests and rights would be the last resort,” Barrow said.
“Calls for stability by the government should be coupled by laws guaranteeing workers’ rights,” she added.
Workers said that two main problems independent trade unions face were restrictions at the private sector and the huge number of workers at the informal sector.
Barrow said that they would provide support to workers in multinational companies as part of a global campaign to track companies that don’t respect workers’ rights across borders.
Egypt needs to ensure that laws cover all workers, establish a system of social protection to include those unemployed, and set a minimum wage to attract workers at the informal sector to the formal sector, she added.