Qalioubiya court rules in favour of independent trade union candidates

Yassin Gaber , Wednesday 16 Nov 2011

Independent trade union members are fighting for their right to run as worker representatives in the upcoming parliamentary elections; Wednesday's court ruling could set a precedent as other governorates head to the court

On Wednesday, lawyers from the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights succeeded in obtaining a ruling from the Court of Administrative Justice in the governorate of Qalioubiya which confirms the eligibility of the Egyptian Independent Trade Unions Federation (EITUF) in granting candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections the right to run as representatives of workers.

“The information provided in the [certification] documents issued by the EITUF include all required data to prove status of the candidate, thus should be considered a legal document,” stated the court’s verdict. The ruling could set a precedent as independent trade union members take their fight to the courts in other governorates.

Candidates in a handful of governorates, such as Giza, Menoufiya, and Qalioubiya – the first two governorates fall within round two of the elections while the third falls within round three – have been denied the right to run as a worker representative by the governorates’ elections commissions. In a 20 July decree, the SCAF maintained a 47-year-old quota for representatives of workers and peasants in both the upper and lower houses of Egypt’s Parliament.

In March, Egypt’s manpower minister, Ahmed Hassan El-Borai announced the right of Egyptian workers to establish their own labour unions and federations, an action hailed by the International Labour Organisation. However, a new trade union has yet to be passed by Egypt’s military rulers, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), creating confusion as to the formation of multiple unions. Following the August enforcement of a 2006 judgement, the state-run ETUF’s board was dissolved, raising questions on trade union pluralism and the future of both the ETUF and EITUF.

The ruling on Wednesday is a step in granting legal legitimacy to the EITUF and the more than 90 independent trade unions that have formed in the wake of the 18-day uprising.

The ruling will allow several unionists and EITUF members such as Tarek Mostafa Abdel-Fattah, secretary-general of the Real Estate Tax Union, and Mohammed Morshed, press secretary of the Real Estate Tax Union, to run in the coming parliamentary polls. The Real Estate Tax Union was the first union to formally secede from the government-run Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF).

According to Fatma Ramadan, a socialist activist and labour organiser, six candidates in Giza have seen their worker’s status shot down by the governorates election commission. “The fact that only a handful of Egypt’s governorates have refused to recognise members of independent trade unions seems to indicate that the cause is either disorganisation in these governorates or personal agendas,” Ramadan stated.

Giza's court hearing was held Wednesday afternoon, and labour activists are, as of print, waiting for the official verdict. Trade union members in the governorate of Menoufiya, however, will have to wait until 22 November – less than a month before the start of second round on 14 December – after the court postponed their hearing. "They have all the paper work. There is no legal reason why they should put it off in this way," the labour organiser stated. 

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