Towards a balanced labour law

Gamal Essam El-Din , Thursday 9 May 2024

President Al-Sisi called for a new labour law to be passed as soon as possible.

Towards a balanced labour law

 

In his Labour Day speech, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi underlined that the state remains committed to upholding the rights of workers and announced the allocation of LE5 billion to the Emergency Assistance Fund for Workers. The money will allow the fund to increase monthly allowances paid to workers from LE600 to LE1,500.

The Emergency Assistance Fund for Workers was established in 2020 following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic to support seasonal workers who had lost their jobs. The fund’s mandate was subsequently expanded and it now covers tourism employees who have been negatively impacted by the war in Gaza.

In his speech, President Al-Sisi also announced that he has instructed the Ministry of Labour to enhance national labour skills to meet domestic and international labour market needs.

“The Labour Ministry will continue to upgrade the vocational training system to provide skilled labour and will seek to benefit from the successful experience of the private sector in this regard,” said Al-Sisi.

Al-Sisi also directed the ministry to develop a comprehensive national strategy to promote job safety and ensure compliance with safety rules, and that a new labour law will be passed in 2024.

The Supreme Council for Social Dialogue has been directed to hold a series of hearing sessions with workers representatives, government officials, and employers on the new draft labour law. Following the discussion, a final draft incorporating recommendations will be referred to the House of Representatives.

Commenting on Al-Sisi’s speech, Minister of Manpower Hassan Shehata said the Supreme Council for Social Dialogue had already begun hearing sessions on the draft.

“We want to reach a balanced law that can protect the rights of workers and at the same time attract private investments,” said Shehata, noting that “the private sector now employs 80 per cent of Egypt’s 30 million workers.”

Chairman of the House’s Labour Force Committee Adel Abdel-Fadil told Al-Ahram Weekly that a draft Labour Law had been approved by the Senate in February 2022. It was then withdrawn by the government on the grounds some articles needed amendments.

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Alaaeddin Fouad told reporters that the government decided to redraft the law following extensive criticism from the business community and the Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions.

The Federation of Egyptian Industries criticised 17 articles, including on strikes, maternity leave, contracts, and bonuses, while the Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions raised concerns over articles governing strikes, women in the workplace, maternity leave, workers’ bonuses, child labour, VAT on labour lawsuits and training.

A report by the Senate’s Energy, Environment, and Labour Force Committee said it was important to draft a new labour law as soon as possible in line with the country’s 2014 constitution. The law, according to the report, should operate in tandem with new rules instituted by the Supreme Constitutional Court and relevant conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The new labour law mandates the setting up of a Higher Council for Planning and Employment to draw up labour policies and establish an assistance fund for seasonal workers.

One of the most controversial articles of the new labour bill is that it would make it easier for employers to lay off employees, though the Senate committee’s report found that the draft contains no provision for “the automatic dismissal of workers and clearly states that a worker can be dismissed only upon a final judicial order from a labour court”.

Another controversial article allows workers the right to strike as long as other avenues to settle labour disputes have been exhausted.

Article 205 states that workers intending to organise a peaceful strike should notify the concerned administrative department 10 days ahead, indicating the reasons behind the strike and its duration.

Articles 206 and 207 state that workers cannot strike to amend a national labour agreement if they are employed in sectors that serve national security interests or by institutions providing basic services to citizens, as determined by the prime minister.

The Senate also approved Article 58, which bans the employment of children below 18 years of age, and Article 60, which allows children within the same age bracket to receive training for a maximum of six hours a day.

The bill also states that women are entitled to four months of paid maternity leave.


* A version of this article appears in print in the 9 May, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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