Board member questions independence of labor union, freezes membership
Image from a previous Mahalla strike - Courtesy: Mohamed al-Saeed

Fatma Ramadan, board member of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU), announced on Wednesday that she has frozen her membership, saying that the union has recently been taking orders from the regime while speaking in the name of workers.

The union has been criticized in the past period for many of its decisions, which have been seen as unsupportive to the current wave of workers’ protests.

“It was proven in recent months that the government, with its different branches, was able to buy members of the boards of several independent unions, at the top of which is the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions,” Ramadan said in a statement posted on her Facebook page on Wednesday.

The EFITU was established with the aim of representing workers and their interests away from the influence of the state and of business owners. It operated as a shadow organization to the official Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), which is a government affiliate.

Ramadan says that she and a few other board members have failed to change its pro-government direction, which has been spearheaded by the head of the union and its secretary general.

Ramadan says that members of the board defied the board’s decision and signed a document in support of soon-to-be president Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on May 10.  The board had previously decided not to officially endorse either candidate in the presidential race order to preserve the unity of the syndicates and not sway members’ individual decisions. Several member syndicates issued statements condemning the union’s signature in their names without their consent.

On May 10, the EFITU also signed a controversial statement in the name of workers, which was drafted by the Ministry of Manpower and titled “Workers’ code of honor,” announcing Alexandria a strike-free governorate.

Additionally, Ramadan says that the EFITU joined forces with the government and the government-affiliated ETUF, abandoning some of the most pressing demands of the labor force. Among these are the return of arbitrarily fired workers in public companies, the issuing of a labor freedoms law, and a repeal of the laws criminalizing peaceful protest and strike.

Ramadan says that the members of the board have become tools in the government’s hands and have steered away from their original vision, which entails protecting rights of workers. She says the board has not held a general assembly meeting in the last two and a half years in violation of its own bylaws, in order to avoid being subjected to its angry members.

Ramadan adds that her decision will remain until the meeting of the general assembly. She called on the union’s members to push for the election of a new board. 


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