Labor leader questions legality of new union for Egyptians working in Lebanon

The government plans to establish a labor union for Egyptians working in Lebanon by next week, announced on Wednesday Gebali al-Maraghi, president of the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF).

Official estimates suggest that there are some 30,000 Egyptian workers based in Lebanon, though some say the figure could be much higher.

In statements published in the state-owned Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar newspapers on Wednesday, which were then widely circulated in the private press, Maraghi claimed that the so-called Egyptian Services Labor Union would be the first such institution for Egyptian workers based abroad, and would serve as an affiliate of the ETUF. 

However, the announcement has been openly refuted by Lebanon’s leading labor unionist.

According to Ghassan Ghosn, president of the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers (CGTL), Lebanese law does not accept the establishment of labor unions or federations for non-Lebanese workers in that country.

In an interview with the Al-Arabi Al-Gadeed website published Wednesday, Ghosn went on to clarify that non-Lebanese workers are not even allowed membership in Lebanon’s trade unions.

Similarly, Egyptian labor unions — whether state-controlled or independent — do not allow for the unionization of non-Egyptian workers.

Maraghi also claimed that Lebanon would be the first country in which the ETUF would establish its affiliated unions for Egyptian workers based abroad, and that the government hoped to establish more unions for Egyptians working in other Arab countries and across the world.

It is worth noting that, like Lebanon, the labor laws of most Arab countries do not allow for the unionization of non-citizens.

Saudi Arabia has some of the highest numbers of Egyptian workers in the region, with official estimates suggesting that some 1.7 million Egyptians are employed in the kingdom.

There are no labor organizations in Saudi Arabia, as this kingdom does not legally recognize the establishment of unions for citizens or foreigners.


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