A file photo of Egypt s Senate in Cairo (Photo : Al-Ahram)
The Senate, which gave a preliminary approval of the law on 2 January, has finished discussing and passing 38 articles out of a total 267.
On Sunday, the Senate will begin discussing articles related to women labour. Abdel-Khaleq Ayad, chairman of the Senate's Energy, Environment, and Labour Committee, said the draft adopts a legislative policy aimed at protecting women against discrimination and making sure that working women and men are treated equally as long as the work circumstances are similar.
"The minister of labour is also authorised by the law to issue decrees regarding the conditions and occasions in which women are allowed to take paid holidays," said Ayad, indicating that "according to the law, working women can't be dismissed while on a labour leave."
The draft took four months of discussions. "The committee held a series of hearings during this period to listen to the viewpoints of labour experts on the draft law," said Ayad.
Ayad added that "in our four-month discussions we focused on how the draft law will serve production and workers and how it will encourage businessmen and investors to set up new projects that can generate new job opportunities for young people."
According to Ayad, the new labour law was drafted to strike a balance between the interests of both the employers and employees. "The law does not serve the interests of one party at the expense of the other. It is a progressive step for the country," said Ayad.
He insisted that the draft labour law does not include any articles that can lead to the "automatic dismissal of workers".
"The new labour law is meant to regulate the relationship between employers and workers and in this respect, it includes rules that can be used to settle differences between the two parties," said Ayad, adding that "the law states that a worker can be dismissed only upon a final judicial order from a labour court."
Minister of Labour Mohamed Saafan said the number of workers in Egypt is estimated at 30 million and that private-sector employers account for 80 percent of the total. "This means that private-sector businessmen and investors represent the majority of employers in Egypt, and the new labour law was drafted to reflect this fact," said Saafan.
He indicated that in drafting the new labour law, the government was keen to note the remarks of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). "We also tried our best to make the law in line with foreign agreements and conventions which Egypt signed in this respect," said Saafan.
Hossam El-Khouli, the parliamentary spokesman for the majority party Mostaqbal Watan (The Nation's Future) said the party approves the new government-drafted labour law. "We approve this law in principle because it is balanced, and let's note that this is a labour law, and not an employers' law or businessmen's law, but it is a law that serves the interests of the two parties in a balanced way," said El-Khouli.
Senator Tarek Raslan said the new labour law comes at a time Egypt is paving the way for the private sector to be the main player in the field of mega-development and industrial projects. "The law was drafted to reflect the new fact that Egypt is now a market economy dominated by the private sector, but at the same time we should put into consideration the fact that the constitution states that the rights of workers should be protected and preserved," said Raslan.
Senator Mahmoud Bakri said that while the number of workers in Egypt is estimated at 30 million, 25 million of them are now employed by the private sector. "It is not the case as before or when the public sector was the main employer of workers," said Bakri, praising the fact that the law provides workers with a number of protective measures. "The law does not allow the automatic dismissal of workers. It sets up labour courts to settle disputes between employers and workers within 60 to 90 days and stipulates that work contracts are drafted in a balanced way, reflecting the interests of both employers and workers," said Bakri.
Article 10 of the new labour law states that once ratified by the president and published in the official gazette, it will be effective after 90 days.