New ministry appointments anger labour groups

Bassem Abo Al-Abass, Michael Gunn, Wednesday 23 Feb 2011

Workers raise doubts over cabinet choice of labour and industry heads

 Ahmed Shafiq
Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's new cabinet met for the first time on Wednesday amid protests from workers' organisations about the track record of the new holders of economy-related positions.

The appointment of two controversial new ministers in the reshuffled cabinet has raised heated complaints from labour representatives and threats of further strikes and demonstrations.

Ismail Fahmi, treasurer of the National Labour Union, has been named new Minister of Labour and Immigration. The Union stands accused of corruption with January 25 protesters demanding a change in its administrative role.

Independent labour syndicates have sent a note to the military council rejecting Fahmi's appointment and made calls for an open strike in the headquarters of the Ministry of Labour.

A labour conference will be held next Wednesday at Cairo's Press Syndicate headquarters in further protest, with delegates set to appeal to the International Labour Organisation, asking it not to recognise Fahmi.

Kamal Abbas, general co-ordinator for the Centre for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS), representing the fledgling indepedent labour syndicates, was among those contesting Fahmi's appointment. He points to 111 court rulings upheld against the National Labour Union following complaints from workers' organisations after last year's election of members.

Equal furore has met the appointment of Samir Sayad as Minister of Industry and Commerce. Sayad, a former cultural attache to London, is chairman of Pachin, one of Egypt's biggest paint companies.

Pachin's operations saw strikes on Monday when 400 workers protested demanding their temporary contracts be made permanent. Egyptian news website Youm7 reports employees' frustration that Sayad failed to address their demands.

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