EGYPTIAN ALLIANCE FOR INDEPENDENT UNIONS
Headquarters Address: 88 Qasr al-‘Ayni Street, First Floor, Apt. 7—Cairo
Sister worker/Brother worker
After decades of bitter struggle and thanks to the sacrifices made by the great Egyptian people in the January 25th Revolution, the Egyptian working class has obtained the right to organize its ranks in independent trade unions, far from the interference of the government, parties, and employers.
Egypt’s male and female workers have long struggled against the practices of monopoly and corruption exercised by the former regime, from the security apparatus to the fraudulent unions, which resulted in:
- The sale of institutions employing workers in the public sector in order to line the regime’s pockets, with the support of the fraudulent unions
- Millions of workers’ displacement to the ranks of the poor, unemployed, and into early retirement, facilitated by the past regime’s yellow unions;
- The general worsening of retirement and professional situations for Egypt’s workers;
- Significant deterioration in the performance of the Egyptian economy, and the transferal of state support to private investors
But today, thanks to all your sacrifices, we are facing a new challenge: to build Egypt on the basis of democracy and social justice. We are helped in this task by the fact that Egypt has been signing agreements and international covenants that prioritize the respect of human, economic, and social rights—agreements such as the International Covenant for Economic and Social Rights, and the International Labor Organization agreements, in particular agreements numbers 87 and 98. All of these guarantee the rights of the workers to form independent trade unions without government authorization and determine the regulations governing these unions themselves, operating as they see fit. These are democratically elected trade unions; their administration is not subject to a single location or interest at the expense of the workers or the wellbeing of their children.
The announcement issued by the Minister of the Work Force and Migration regarding the unions’ rights and freedoms in the Arab Republic of Egypt has crowned our struggle. The time has come to work toward building an appropriate union organization for Egypt and its workers: builders of the Pyramids, iron-workers, weavers, textile factory workers, and others who paid dearly with the rest of their people for the sake of a free and independent Egypt.
Independent Unions are a necessity to defend our legitimate rights
The Essence of a Union
A “union” is an independent organization that is permanent, continuous, and democratic,; it is founded and operated by workers working in one profession or similar, linked professions.
- To defend the workers in their work
- To demand workers’ rights and apply the necessary pressures—through the use of different militant tools—in order to obtain these rights for the workers’ movement
- To develop the workers’ knowledge and improve their leadership’s negotiation abilities
- To defend the right to appropriate work for all individuals in society, without discrimination
- To improving their working conditions of retirement benefits (including wages, treatment, insurance, and other social services)
- To expressing the workers’ point of view on different social issues
- To struggle for the effective participation of the workers in defining, deciding and applying different economic and social polices in order to arrive at a more just society.
The Main Elements of a Union:
A union has four parts—or must meet four main conditions—in order to execute its duties as demanded:
- Independence: from the government and all political parties
- Democracy: the right of all union workers to nominate, vote and participate in electing their leadership, without discrimination
- Representation: the union voluntarily includes in its membership the largest possible number of workers
- Credibility: the union only expresses, with word and deed, the interests of its members
Independent Unions are founded and operated by the workers themselves
The Values and Principles of a Union
Unions have core values and principles that they work to apply in all different conditions and situations:
- Solidarity among all workers, domestically and internationally
- Preserving the unity of the union and working toward the unity of the union movement as a whole on the basis of democracy and independence
- Avoiding all forms of discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religion, nationality, sect, color, etc.
- Defending and strengthening all freedoms (individual and collective), human rights in general, and union rights in particular
- Supporting all causes that are just and right
The Role of a Union and its Functions
1. On the labor-professional level
a) Treating individual/collective problems resulting from violations of the provisions of the law
b) Negotiating and signing collective work contracts for workers in every establishment, including those regarding wages, work hours, promotions, etc.;
c) Confronting the worsening situations of workers’ pensions and the decrease in wages’ real value
d) Guaranteeing the right to work and continue working, and combating unemployment
e) Obtaining guarantees and social gains, plus maintaining and developing these gains
f) Raising the level of union and labor awareness, and working to ratify and implement programs for training and vocational certification
The independent union and democracy are your voice in labor
The independent union serves its workers, not profiteers
g) Improving labor conditions, especially on the level of health and vocational safety
h) Obtaining information related to the status of the economic institution, such as budgets, etc.
i) Representing workers of a trade/sector and defending the interests of all bodies and social partners
j) Solidarity with other local, national, and international workers
k) Organizing workers and including them without discrimination of any kind.
2. On the Social Level
1) Working in all civil society organizations for the sake of social justice and combating poverty
2) Confronting the exploitation of women and children in labor, as well as all forms of discrimination in labor situations
3) Spreading health, environmental, and dietary awareness, as well as awareness of family planning
4) Strengthening social ties between members and all other workers, national and international
5) Organizing sports, arts, cultural, and environmental activities
6) Combating illiteracy
7) Offering services to workers and their families
Types of Labor Unions
- A professional union, such as the carpenters’ union
- An institutional union, such as the workers’ union in the Mahala textile company
- A professional sector union, such as the food production workers’ union
The Geographic Scope of Unions
Each union’s scope is limited to operations within its limits, according to members’ choices and internal regulations. Thus, an institutional union works on organizing an entire institution’s workers, wherever that institution’s branches may be throughout the country. Often, the geographic scope is based on a system of geographical and national administrative division, such as:
- Governorate union
- Two-governorate union
- National union
The independent union is a guarantee for the best labor conditions
International legislation and national laws have given employers the right to form their own special unions in order to defend their interests and represent themselves in different areas (before the government, the workers, and various other bodies). Generally, employers’ unions are distributed geographically and by sector.
We must also point out that there are still other types of unions, such as the free professional unions (of doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, engineers, etc.). These unions are distinguished from labor unions by an essential condition: they represent the right to practice the profession. This means it is not possible for any doctor, for example, to engage in the medical profession in the state without a license from the union, subject to special conditions… while in other professions it is possible for a person to practice the profession without any conditions or barriers.
Membership in professional unions does not prevent these unions’ members from joining other unions that defend their interests in the various aspects of their work.
For more information please contact any one of the following numbers
- (Naga’ Hamada)
- (al-Mahala al-Kubra)
Acquired 9 May 2011
Translated by Paul Kohlbry
Translation reviewed by Emily Drumsta