"The labour movement is in the heart and soul of the Egyptian revolution": Egyptian workers form new union federation

Author: 
Centre for Trade Union & Workers Services

CTUWS, a labour-movement NGO based in Egypt, has been involved in the establishment of a new union federation to emphasise a working-class voice "in the heart and soul" of the ongoing revolution.

It is a sign of the political degeneration of the British left that almost any attempt to differentiate between political forces active within the Egyptian revolution is met with hysterical accusations of "racism". AWL disagrees; on the contrary, we think that it is the relativist attitudes of the Stalinoid left which smack of racism. That they implicitly hold Egyptian workers to lower political standards than western workers (denouncing notions of working-class politics or secularism as western constructs that we could not possibly expect Egyptian workers to understand or base themselves on politically) is obscene. That they cannot distinguish between Muslims (including many practising, religious Muslims) and Islamists is likewise.

We are in full solidarity with the efforts of the Egyptian working class to overthrow the hated regime of Mubarak. But we are not just passive cheerleaders; we are socialists, and we exist to promote working-class, socialist politics not just in Britain but across the world. In Egypt, we aim to identify socialist and working-class elements within the revolutionary movements. It is those elements, and the politics they represent, that we want to see achieve political hegemony - rather than other political forces (Islamist, liberal or otherwise).

As such, the news from CTUWS that a new trade union federation has been formed is of great interest to us. Undoubtedly the classless, "anti-imperialist" left will denounce it because of its links to the AFL-CIO (the American equivalent of the TUC) and some western NGO bodies. But for us, any development which represents, on any level, workers organising themselves independently and in their own interests is of paramount importance and deserves our active solidarity and support.

CTUWS press release:
Today, representatives of the of the Egyptian labor movement, made up of the independent Egyptian trade unions of workers in real estate tax collection, the retirees, the technical health professionals and representatives of the important industrial areas in Egypt: Helwan, Mahalla al-Kubra, the tenth of Ramadan city, Sadat City and workers from the various industrial and economic sectors such as: garment & textiles, metals industry, pharmaceuticals, chemical industry, government employees, iron and steel, automotive, etc.

And they agreed to hold a press conference at 3:30pm this afternoon in Tahrir Square next to Omar Effendi Company store in downtown Cairo to announce the organization of the new Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions and to announce the formation of committees in all factories and enterprises to protect, defend them and to set a date for a general strike. And to emphasize that the labor movement is in the heart and soul of the Egyptian Peoples’ revolution and its emphasis on the support for the six requirements as demanded by the Egyptian People's Revolution. To emphasize the economic and democratic demands voiced by the independent labor movement through thousands of strikes, sit-ins and protests by Egyptian workers in the past years.

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That they implicitly hold Egyptian workers to lower political standards than western workers (denouncing notions of working-class politics or secularism as western constructs that we could not possibly expect Egyptian workers to understand or base themselves on politically) is obscene.

thats it! a key point.
iam also tired to hear, that claim for secularism, women- or queer-rights are "western constructs only".

The workers are angry - CTUWS press release 1/2/2011

Translated from a press release in French

CENTER FOR TRADE UNION WORKERS AND SERVICES (CTUWS)
Winner of the Prize of the French Republic for Human Rights

Press Release On 1/2/2011 (Translation from French Version)

The workers are angry!

Tens of thousands of Egyptian workers (men and women) join the Millions Persons demonstration/protest events being organized today in the capital, Cairo, in Alexandria and in other parts of Egypt with the aim of overthrowing the regime.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) in Egypt which has always been against workers ... the federation which has continued to betray the workers since its creation ... the federation has won rigged elections and has always complied with the orders of the Egyptian Secret Service ... the federation dares to go out in the darkness of the night to announce that workers support the current regime, this is the same regime that has been effectively overthrown and actually we are waiting for the departure of one who represents it.

We proclaim loudly that we have turned the page away from this ETUF federation that is full of corruption and despotism when we have turned a new page away from the former regime. Egyptian workers, men and women, announced on January 30, 2011, the creation of the founding committee of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions, determined to build a federation based on the principles of democracy and an organization that will be managed with full transparency. Our new Federation will defend workers' rights and will work to improve their living conditions. A democratic federation in a democratic society.

Egyptian Federation for Independent Unions statement 30 January

Egyptian Federation for Independent Unions
Constitutional Body Creation

Egypt is going through historical moments… Its people is courageously struggling to defend the right to live a decent life… the right to dignity, freedom and social justice… to decent opportunities and just pay… to a democratic society for all, offering every single citizen a share in its wealth and GNP… a society that does not allow few to buy private jets whereas the rest of the population cannot even afford public transportation… a society that refuses to pay the top of the pyramid salaries higher thousand of time than minimum wage.

A society that allows its people to breathe freely… to freely speak, interact and express itself… a society that allows all people categories and classes to defend their interests and negotiate freely… a society that does not oppress its people, inhibits its ambitions and natural tendencies to develop workers capacities and improve their life conditions.

Workers and people struggled for decades and participated, especially since 4 years, in unprecedented recurrent protest actions to defend their legal rights. They succeeded in their endeavor despite the lack of independent union organization, stolen piece by piece for decades. They succeeded in attracting larges social sectors, and mobilizing greater sympathy among the Egyptian society, workers and union movements.

Workers defended their right to work to face unemployment specter – that devours youth – and demanded to set a new fair minimum wage that guarantees decent living for all workers. They fought courageously to defend their democratic right to organize and create independent union organizations.

Labor struggles paved the way to today’s people revolution. That is why Egypt workers and employees totally refuse that the “governmental” general federation represents them and speaks in their name, because it often denied their rights and claims and even issued the famous statement on January 27 claiming to oppose every single protest action during this period.

Therefore, independent unions and committees [RETA, Retired Workers Union, Health professionals Union, Teachers Independent Union] along with workers independent groups in industries declare the creation of Egyptian Federation for Independent Unions and its constitutional body on Sunday the 30th of January 2011 and emphasizes on the following:

1. Egypt citizens right to work – and binding the government to “unemployment compensation”.

2. Define a minimum wage no less than 1200 LE, with a yearly raise proportionate to inflation; guarantee workers rights to bonuses and benefits according to work value, especially work compensation for those facing work hazards. Moreover, maximum wage should never exceed minimum wage by more than ten times.

3. The right for all Egyptian citizens to fair social security including the right to health care, housing, education “ensuring free education and syllabus development to cope with science and technology evolution”, the right for all retired to decent pensions and benefits.

4. Workers and employees right to organize, to create their own bylaws, to remove all legal restrictions regarding this right.

5. Free all detainees imprisoned after January 25th.

Egypt Federation for Independent Unions Constitutional Body invites all Egypt workers to create civil committees in order to defend their workplace, workers and citizens during these critical times and to organize protest actions and strikes in the workplaces, except for vital sectors workplaces, to realize Egypt people claims.

Egyptian Federation for Independent Unions
The “Constitutional Body”
30/01/2011

Egyptian workers' actions; solidarity action including in Israel

Breaking news - workers at the Labour University have detained the vice president of the state-controlled, corrupt ETUF.

From interview with Hossam el-Hamalawy conducted on Saturday, February 5th at 8pm (Egyptian time).: www.occupiedlondon.org/cairo/?p=300

The intervention of the working class in the movement is also another question mark, because definitely in some of the provinces where mass protests were organized they contained a majority of workers. But we still haven't seen an independent movement by those workers. Except in very few cases. For example I received a report about a textile mill owned by a company called Ghazl Meit Ghamr in Daqahliya, which is a province in the Nile Delta. The workers there have kicked out the CEO, they have occupied the factory and are self-managing it. This type of action has also been repeated in a printing house south of Cairo called Dar El-Ta'awon. There as well the workers have kicked out the CEO and are self managing the company. There are two other cases in Suez, where the clashes were the worst with the security forces during the uprising. The death toll is very high in Suez, we don't actually know the real death toll until now. In two factories there, the Suez Steel Mill and the Suez Fertilizer Factory, workers have declared an open-ended strike until the regime falls. Other than that we have not seen, at least to my knowledge, independent working class action.

And from his blog: www.arabawy.org/2011/02/07/workers-revolution

University professors will gather tomorrow, Tuesday, 12:30pm in front of their club headquarters, and will stage a march in support of the revolution, joining the protesters in Tahrir.

Also, tomorrow 12 noon, journalists will gather at their syndicate, in an emergency meeting to lobby for impeaching their state-backed syndicate head, Makram Mohamed Ahmed.

And more importantly, on Wednesday 11am, the three independent unions we have in Egypt (Property Tax Collectors, Health Technicians and Pensioners' Federation) will demonstrate in front of the headquarters of the state backed Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions, in Galaa Street, calling for the prosecution of the federation head on corruption charges, lifting all restrictions on establishing free unions. The civil servants will then mobilize a march to Tahrir Square in support of the revolution.

Already today, Monday, the employees at the Workers' University in Nasr City, held Mostafa Mongui, the vice president of the Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions

THESE ARE FANTASTIC DEVELOPMENTS. We need to take the fight to the factories and workplaces. Only a general strike will bring this regime down once and for all.

Comment by Eric Lee

Demonstration by workers organizations in Tel-Aviv tomorrow in solidarity with the Egyptian people - details on Facebook here here.

The two independent trade unions in Israel - WAC-MAAN and Power to The Workers - will hold a solidarity demonstration in Tel Aviv to support the Egyptian workers and people struggle on February 8
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) called for trade unions around the world to join a day of action for democracy and social justice in Egypt on 8 February.
WAC-MAAN and Power to The Workers call all supporters of the Egyptian workers' and people's struggles, to join us in a demonstration in front of the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv.
The demonstration will take place at 13.30 on Bazel St., Tel Aviv.
See the whole item
www.wac-maan.org.il/en/article__186

Suez Canal workers strike

From:
http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/5231/Egypt/Politics-/Suez-Canal-workers-go-on-strike-.aspx

Suez Canal Company workers from the cities of Suez, Port Said, and Ismailia
began an open-ended sit in today. Disruptions to shipping movements, as well
as disasterous econmic losses, are expected if the strike continues. Over
6000 protesters have agreed that they will not go home today once their
shift is over and will continue their in front of the company's headquarters
until their demands are met. They are protesting against poor wages and
deteriorating health and working condition

Telecom workers too

Telecom Egypt employees protest for wages
Employees of Telecom Egypt Company have staged a protest seeking better wages, a revision in the pay structure of the staff and the resignation of the company's board of directors
Ahram Online, Tuesday 8 Feb 2011
Print Send

The protest at Telecom Egypt began at 9AM today when thousands of workers demonstrated in front of the Ramses branch of the company, stating their demands, which include raises by 10 per cent and sacking the company's managing director, Tarek Tantawi, threatining an open sit-in if their demands are not met.

The demonstration later spread to other branches including those in Zamalek and Heliopolis.

Workers rejected negotiating with Tantawi and insisted on directing their complaints to Minister of Communications and Information Technology Tarek Kamel directly.

The headquarters of Telecom Egypt in the Smart Village also witnessed some strikes yesterday.