By Tamim Elyan
CAIRO: Egypt’s official trade unions federation threatened a general workers’ strike to demand the sacking of the manpower minister due to his support for independent unions.
Ismail Fahmy, acting head of the official Egyptian Trade Unions Federation (ETUF), threatened Saturday that workers’ syndicates will organize a general strike demanding the dismissal of Manpower Minister Ahmed El-Borei because of his support for independent trade unions.
Fahmy is currently participating in the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) general assembly in Geneva, where during one of the sessions, Kamal Abbas, general coordinator of the Center for Workers and Trade Unions Services (CTUWS), reportedly interrupted his speech, accusing the ETUF of killing protesters during the January 25 Revolution.
Fahmy held a press conference after a dispute between the two in the session where he said, “What happened was incited by El-Borei — he also encouraged independent trade unions to file lawsuits against ETUF demanding it be dissolved.”
“I told him before that what he is doing is damaging to the country. The ETUF is not corrupt and did not jump on the revolution’s bandwagon,” he added.
The ETUF assigned its legal consultant to file a complaint to the Prosecutor General against supporters of independent trade unions.
During a session on Thursday, Abbas interrupted Fahmy to say that the ETUF is not representative of Egyptian workers and that some of its leaders were involved in “killing protesters” in Tahrir Square on Feb. 2, in what became known as “Battle of the Camel.”
“Enough. All those years and crimes — you participated in passing privatization deals, allowed violations of workers rights, defended [Hosni] Mubarak’s regime and plotted to kill protesters in Tahrir Square,” Abbas said.
Former head of ETUF, Hussein Megawer, is remanded in custody on charges of hiring thugs to attack protesters in Tahrir Square.
El-Borei said the ETUF adopts consistent policies against freedoms contrary to those of the government of the revolution, refusing to respond to Fahmy’s accusations.
“If I was not attending the session, things would have developed [further]. I asked [Abbas] to stop and expressed my discontent for what he did,” El-Borei said in press statements.
Fahmy demanded that authorities ban a number of activists from international labor organizations from entering Egypt.
A number of labor leaders and activists filed a complaint to the Prosecutor General against Fahmy, demanding an investigation into the union’s participation in the International Labor Organization’s general assembly with a delegation of 20 members and 10 journalists, all expenses paid.
They said that the costs of the delegation’s visit exceeded LE 1.5 million and will be paid from the workers’ membership fees since the government reportedly refused to pay for the trip.
Egypt was moved for the first time from the black list of countries that violate workers’ rights and was elected as a member of the ILO’s board during the general assembly.
Ahmed Al-Sayed, head of the independent syndicate for health technicians, said in a statement that El-Borei and independent trade unions are being attacked because he is the first minister not to comply with the ETUF.
“He came to the post instead of Fahmy three days after his appointment. He is the first Minister of Manpower from outside the ETUF and they aren’t used to syndicate work. [They] want a minister who complies with their demands,” Al-Sayed said.
Workers expressed anger over the government’s decision to activate two articles of the penal law criminalizing strikes and sector protests in what they said was a crackdown on labor movements in Egypt.
Five workers from Petrojet Company participating at a sit-in in front of the Ministry of Petroleum were arrested last week by military police on charges of illegal gathering and occupying a public road and were referred to military prosecution.
A worker at Al-Mansoura-Spain Company died after a car ran her over and injured seven others during a protest demanding the reopening of the company.
Ten workers who were arrested last week during a protest were ordered released Sunday on LE 10,000 bail.
Head of public transportation workers’ independent syndicate, Ali Fatouh, was referred to court on charges of inciting workers to strike and create independent formations.
The Administrative Court is set to discuss Tuesday a lawsuit filed by independent trade unions and human rights groups against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the Prime Minister demanding the annulment of Law 34/2011 banning strikes and protests that hinder production.