Egypt,  Trade Unions

Another brick in the wall

This is a guest post by Abu Faris

Islamists are, amongst other things, hirsute liars. The Egyptian public, after foolishly having voted Islamists and Salafi into office, are beginning to wake up to this fact, as the Islamists and assorted religious bigots begin to roll-back on nearly every one of their promises made to the public in the revolutionary days before and after the 25 January Revolution of last year.

A case in point is the right to form free trade unions in Egypt. According to Khalid Ali, Executive Director of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood front party, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) once supported the formation of new trade unions that were not linked to the old regime’s corrupt, venal and compliant Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF). The Egyptian anarchist blogger, Jano Charbel, reports Ali as asserting:

Before the revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood worked with me to draft a proposed syndicate law which would have guaranteed trade union pluralism. Saber Aboul Fotouh, the head of the Labor Force Committee in Parliament now, was part of this, along with Yosri Bayoumi, who is now supported by the FJP to be the Labor Minister. But immediately after the revolution, they switched.

Since the Revolution over 200 free trade unions have sprung into existence, with an estimated membership of over two million. However, the free trade unions have remained disconnected, often restricted to particular locations or employers and lacking in overall direction. Meanwhile, the old regime’s ETUF had been for many years been taken over by Muslim Brotherhood placemen, who are now demanding that the new, independent unions be absorbed into the ETUF.

Three draft laws have recently come up before the Egyptian parliament to that effect. According to Jano Charbel:

The most likely among these to make the statute books is proposed by a group of MPs, most of whom are members of the Freedom and Justice Party, with a background in the state-sanctioned Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF).

Most controversially, the law would prevent workers from organizing more than one union within any enterprise. Workers’ committees at each enterprise would apparently be allowed to choose which union federation they would like to affiliate with at least once every four years. But subject to a lawsuit, any other union which attempted to establish itself would be “automatically dissolved” and its assets seized.

So, before and during the Revolution Egyptian, having promised workers that they would support free trade unions and the dissolution of the old regime’s puppet “trade union” federation, the Islamists of MB had, in fact, both been quietly infiltrating to the highest levels the old ETUF; and now, having gained the majority in Parliament, have presented the Egyptian public with yet another outrageous example of their duplicity by going back on the promises made before and during the Revolution. Hand-in-hand, the Islamists in Parliament and the Islamist enterists into the “official” trade union movement are determined to break free labour organisation in Egypt.

One example of this concerns the Independent Teachers’ Union of Egypt (ITU). Formed in the labour upheavals of 2008, that acted as a rumbling prelude to the coming Revolution three years later, the ITU led teachers across Egypt into strike action last September in an attempt to support their estimated 80 000 members against the disgusting contracts that are forced upon staff in the National School system. With official wages at less than $US 900 per annum and seasonal contracts that force teachers to take on extra tutoring jobs after school in order to make ends meet and leave staff with few rights, discontent is rife in the teaching profession in Egypt and the Independent Teachers’s Union is seen by most Egyptian teachers as the only organisation supporting their claims.

Unsurprisingly, The “official” ETUF teachers’ union did not back the teachers’ strike of last September. Unsurprising as Muslim Brotherhood candidates swept the board in the ETUF teachers’ union elections which took place after the strike, but only around 10 percent of teachers voted.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood have taken control of the Ministry of Education itself, whose imposing, neo-Classical pile stands, barricaded, just behind Tahrir Square. Imposing their narrow-minded, authoritarianism, the Brothers have already begun tampering with the education of Egypt’s children. All students in the Egyptian education system must take vitally important exams at Grade 11, exams that determine whether or not the students may pass up into Egypt’s tertiary education system. This year, and reflecting the swivel-eyed bigotries of the Islamists now in charge of the country, students have been asked to discuss

the corrupt role that the liberal and secular parties play in Egyptian society.

Yes, you did read that correctly. Just to be absolutely clear: students have not been asked to discuss what role liberal and secular parties play in Egyptian society. Oh no, deary me, no: students have been directed to write an essay condemning liberal and secular parties as corrupting influences in Egyptian society. Allah help any student who does not: bang goes their chance to sit in an overcrowded lecture hall at the University of Cairo training to be a dentist, pharmacist, doctor, civil engineer – or any of the other professions that make Egyptian parents glow with pride.

Given the near complete control now being exercised over government and the new attempts to crush the independent trade union movement, together with the compliance of the Egyptian armed forces in the rule of the clerical fascists, opposition to the control of the Islamists seems less and less likely to succeed.

Modern Egypt, only suitably brainwashed Islamist-approved underlings need apply, it would seem.

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