‪Egyptian NGOs condemn ruling which 'criminalises' public servant strikes

Ahram Online , Friday 1 May 2015

The NGO's said that strikes are a 'constitutional' right for all workers and that the court’s ruling ignored the relevant laws

Several independent Egyptian NGOs objected to a court verdict which ruled in favour of criminalising sit-ins by employees at public municipalities, saying that strike action is a right of all workers.

Egypt’s High Administrative Court (HAC) ruled on Tuesday that public employees who take part in sit-ins on the job could be punished for impeding the ability of public institutions to deliver services "which constitute a right for citizens."

Fifteen NGOs released a joint statement saying that staging a peaceful strike is “not a crime”, adding that it is a “right for all workers and staff” and is recognised in Egyptian law.

Further, the statement observed that Egypt is a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights, which stipulates that striking is a right of workers. They also said it is a “constitutional right” in the 2012 and 2014 constitutions.

They claimed that all legislative texts in Egyptian law that criminalise strikes that were written before the 2014 constitution are now “defective” and “unconstitutional” and that the most recent constitution should be taken into account.

The HAC upheld the decision to compulsory retire three employees by the management at a provincial public municipality in the Delta governorate of Menoufiya. It also ordered the postponement of mandatory promotions and raises for 14 other employees for "striking and preventing their institutions from serving citizens," the ruling stated.

In their statement, the NGO’s criticised the legal reasoning behind the verdict, pointing out that relevant legalities were “ignored” by the court and that contradictions existed in the decision.

It is not yet clear how the court's ruling would apply to various labour actions by other public employees across other government branches.

‪Egypt's 2014 constitution enshrines "the right of peaceful strikes," but stipulates that the government can issue laws to regulate such actions.

‪The court said it based its legal opinion on an Islamic Sharia tenet which ordains that "warding off harm takes priority over procuring benefits."

‪Fifteen NGO’s signed the statement, including The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), Nazra for Women’s Studies, and the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Torture and Violence Victims.

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