Egypt s Senate (Photo: Al-Ahram)
Abdel-Khaleq Ayad, chairman of the Senate's Energy, Environment and Labour Force Committee, said the draft law took four months of discussions. "The Committee held a series of hearing sessions over this period in order to listen to the viewpoints of labour experts on the draft law in a neutral and objective way," 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 stimulate 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 in a way that strikes a balance between the interests of employers on the one side and the interests of workers on the other. "I can say that this draft law does not serve the interests of one party at the expense of another, but it aims to serve all parties in a balanced way and represents a progressive step for the country in general," said Ayad.
He insisted that the draft labour law does not include any articles that can lead to "automatic dismissal of workers". "The new labour law simply aims 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 Force Mohamed Saafan said the number of workers in Egypt is estimated at 30 million and that private employers now account for 80 percent of the total. "This means that private businessmen and investors now represent the majority of employers in Egypt and so the new labour law was drafted to reflect this fact," said Saafan.
Minister Saafan also indicated that in drafting the new labour law, the government was keen to take the remarks and notes of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) into account. "We also tried our best that the new labour law goes 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 of 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 a balanced one, 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. "So 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 account the fact that the constitution states that the rights of workers should be protected and preserved," said Raslan.
Senator Mahmoud Bakri said while the number of workers in Egypt is estimated at 30 million, 25 million of them are now employed by the private sector. "This is different from the past 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 protections. "The law does not allow automatic dismissal of workers, sets up labour courts to settle disputes between employers and workers within a period from 60 to 90 days, and stipulates that work contracts be 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 by the official gazette, it will be effective after 90 days from the date of its publication.