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What is the fate of Egypt's Civil Service Law?

Ahram Online , Tuesday 26 Jan 2016
Egyptian parliament (Reuters)
Egyptian parliament (Reuters)
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The fate of Egypt's controversial Civil Service Law remains unclear after the majority of MPs voted it down last week, calling on the government to amend it.  

Parliament's vote on the law came as part of a review of all laws passed in the period between the passing of the 2014 constitution and the formation of the new parliament. All laws were to be reviewed within 15 days of parliament's first session.

The law, which was ratified in March by President El-Sisi in the absence of a parliament and ahead of Egypt's International Economic Conference, aims to reform Egypt’s administrative apparatus in order to lessen the wage burden on state finances and encourage private investment.

MP Gamal Abdel-Nasser, a member of the manpower committee, told Ahram Online that the revision of the law is not bound to the 15-day deadline.

"I believe that although parliament rejected the law, the cabinet can still amend its executive bylaw, after which MPs can approve a new draft of the law," Abdel-Nasser said.

"The amendments can address the reservations of MPs over the law, which is related to articles on the vacation system, promotions and wages," he said. "But ultimately they are all minor issues and can be amended after the 15-day period," Abdel Nasser explained.  

Minster of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Magdy El-Agaty said in press statements on Tuesday that parliament is currently preparing a report for President El-Sisi and the cabinet over the reasons behind rejecting the law.

"This report, which is being prepared in consultation with the government, should indicate in clear-cut terms why MPs voted the law down," El-Agaty added.

The minister explained that the MPs did approve 90 percent of the law's articles and their reservations are over the remaining 10 percent, and once the president and the government receive the MPs' report, the cabinet will move to amend it to reach a common ground with parliament.

The controversial law, issued by the cabinet in November 2015, aimed to reform Egypt’s administrative apparatus, which includes nearly seven million workers, in order to encourage investments by curbing notorious bureaucratic inefficiencies as well as streamlining hiring practices and wage-structures in government institutions.

However, many state employees, labour rights activists and unions criticise the law over what they say is the destruction of long-held rights such as job security, and could also put thousands of government employees out of work.

The law gives the government the right to sack employees after reviewing evaluation reports, whereas previously the firing of state employees was mainly limited to corruption-related cases or absence without leave.

MPs rejected the law on Wednesday with a majority of 332 out of 468.

A few days later, President El-Sisi expressed in a public speech his dissatisfaction with the parliament's stance against the law, saying that the law "aims to reform."

El-Sisi said that even though the state needs only one million workers, the government will retain all seven million workers after the law is passed.

He also stressed that wages will not be lowered and that any raises in salaries will be given to those owed them.

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