Space for trade unions and workers to organise continues to close in Egypt


A new law governing trade unions has alarmed human rights groups in Egypt. Despite strong criticism, the law was officially approved on 5th December 2017. Although Egyptian authorities claim that provisions within the law align with international best practices and standards, others have criticised the fact that it would dissolve all independent trade unions and ban international funding of unions. Similarly, the law only recognises one trade union which is affiliated with the government (ETUF). In a statement, the International Trade Union Confederation commented on the law, declaring it to be

"...a flagrant violation of the fundamental right of workers to organise, and effectively means that the government controlled ETUF would be the only organisation allowed to operate. Workers would be deprived of the possibility to defend their own interests and to negotiate fair wages and decent working conditions. It represents a strengthening of government control over working people, and means that huge numbers of Egyptian workers will be trapped in poverty and in precarious and hazardous work".

Domestic commentators have also noted that the law violates constitutional commitments to trade unions and federations. The general coordinator of the Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services and member of the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights, Kamal Abbas, claims that law represents a renewal of the restrictive 1976 law on trade unions.

Earlier in 2017, Egypt was blacklisted by the International Labor Organisation for a proposed new law that impedes trade unions' right to organise. In addition, a number of independent union representatives and protest organisers faced harassment, arrests and judicial prosecutions over the course of 2017.