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HRW urges Egypt to legalise independent trade unions

The New York-based rights group said that no independent unions have been able to register officially since September 2015

Ahram Online , Sunday 1 May 2016
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Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Egyptian authorities to legalise independent trade unions in the country and end the single official union system.

In a report issued on Saturday to mark International Workers' Day, the New York-based watchdog said the Egyptian government is stepping on the basic rights of workers by not recognising independent unions.

“Egypt’s government is ignoring the basic right of workers to organise independently,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director.

“The government seems intent on stifling the freedom Egypt’s labour movement only gained after years of struggle that culminated in the 2011 uprising.”

Independent trade unions thrived following the 2011 revolution, which forced out long time autocrat Hosni Mubarak, after then manpower minister Ahmed Al-Boraie introduced a declaration that lifted constraints on worker's freedom of organisation.

But the rights group said activists claim that no independent unions have been able to register since September 2015, raising fears that labour rights are at stake.

In March, the interior ministry issued a decision to stop accepting documents stamped by independent unions. 

In November 2015, the cabinet ordered ministries to only deal with the government-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation, an umbrella body of 24 officially recognised unions.

“Protecting workers’ rights to independently organise is a basic right, not a luxury,” Houry said. “Egypt needs economic development for all, but such development doesn’t come with oppressing workers.”

Egypt is a signatory to multiple international conventions which enshrine the rights to form or join trade unions.

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