Labour divided over multiple-unions, minimum income

A number of representatives for the independent workers union announced their acceptance of the expected application of multiple trade unions in the draft trade union rights law.

The multiple trade union system would allow two or more unions to establish themselves within one institution, with proponents explaining that it would increase competitiveness and guarantee results for workers, while opponents claim it would upset worker unity.

Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) head Abdel Fatah Ibrahim said in a Saturday statement that the federation rejects the proposed multiple trade union system, calling the decision “disastrous” while that it would lead to “major national security problems,” referring to the politicisation of the trade unions by certain political groups.

However, according to Mohamed Abdel Sattar, head of the independent Union for Railway Workers and member of the National Union for Workers of Egypt, “the national union, which many of the workers were forced to join, never granted workers their rights and was ineffective. Multiple unions will increase competitiveness.”

The Ministry for Manpower and Immigration had produced a draft legislation for trade union rights which was discussed with different independent and national unions during the month of August.

Tarek Al-Behairy of the independent Transport Workers Union also voiced support for the multiple-union system, saying that this way, “every worker will decide upon which union will benefit him more instead of one, national, politicized and ineffective union.”

Secretary General of the independent Electricity and Energy Workers Union Ahmed Moheb meanwhile said it is only natural for ETUF, a national trade union affiliated with the government, to denounce the law.

“The draft law is only awaiting acceptance and ratification from the cabinet,” Moheb said.

Dalia Moussa, the workers media coordinator at the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, explained that “the centre has worked to ensure workers rights through different unions and offers its full support to a multiple trade union system, which will increase the benefits received by workers.”

The ETUF had said that the law had been discussed with “independent workers unions only” asking, “Why were business owners not invited to discuss the draft law?”

A meeting was held between the ETUF and representatives of business organisations in the National Wage Council meeting Monday, discussing the minimum wage decision within the private sector as well as multiple trade unions.

Several meetings had taken place over the week between the chairman of the ETUF and business and labour representatives, including the Egyptian Union for Workers in Public Institutes and representatives from the administrative unions.

On Wednesday Ibrahim stated that the minimum income number decided by the cabinet does not cover the worker’s full income, which includes his wage as well as a variable salary, such as bonuses. These exceed EGP 1,200 at present times.

The new minimum income decision has had its proponents, such as Al-Tayar Al-Sha’aby spokesman Hossam Mo’ness, who hailed the decision as the “grandest decision since the 25 January revolution,” applauding all who played a role in applying pressure for on those responsible.

Minister of Manpower and Immigration Kamal Abu Eita, for his part, said that “the minimum wage decision made by the cabinet is the first step towards the restructuring of the wage system in Egypt.”

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