Egypt's independent labour unions to protest anti-strike law

Anti-protest laws don’t go down well amidst the spirit of revolution, and unions respond defiantly, calling for Sunday protests

Ahram Online, Saturday 26 Mar 2011

The federation of independent unions has called for a demonstration to be held on Sunday, 27 March at 6pm in front of the Ministers’ Council to protest the anti-protest laws proposed on 23 March.

Kamal Abbas, member of the Trade Union and Labour Services Centre, says “all unions within the federation have declared that they will participate [in the protests] on Sunday. There will be workers from Mahala, Helwan, the 10th of Ramadan and many other [governorates].”

The Egyptian cabinet has issued a draft law that criminalises strikes, protests, demonstrations and sit-ins that interrupt private- or state-owned businesses or affect the economy. Infringement is punishable by a maximum sentence of one year in prison with fines of up to LE500 thousand to anyone who calls for or incites said actions. The new law still needs to be approved by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

If implemented, the law will be in force as long as the emergency law is in force. Egypt has been in a state of emergency since 1981, granting overreaching powers to authorities. One of the primary demands of the 25 January Revolution is the immediate end of Egypt’s state of emergency.

The proposed law incited much anger and protests, which were staged on Friday in Tahrir Square and TV headquarters, Maspero.

More than thirty rights organisations and political groups have signed a statement condemning the proposed law as undemocratic and a retreat from the revolution’s values. The statement criticised the government’s threat of lack of “stability” to compromise the rights gained. It also condemned the criminalisation of workers’ strikes and added that such strikes were “a legitimate right, recognised within international agreements that should be respected by authorities.”



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