Minister of Manpower and Immigration Kamal Abu Eita met with the board of directors of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) late Sunday to discuss the reported omission of the parliamentary quota for farmers and labourers, announcing that a meeting with the Constituent Assembly is set to occur to discuss the issue.
ETUF chairman Abdel Fattah Ibrahim and Abu Eita chaired the meeting with several other board members present. All parties expressed their concern regarding the omission of the article setting aside 50% of parliamentary seats for workers and farmers.
During the meeting Abu Eita stressed that he had appealed to the assembly to retain the quota for one more parliamentary session adding that he had met with Constituent Assembly Chairman Amr Moussa to discuss the problem.
During the meeting with Abu Eita as well as other labour and farmer representatives on Monday, Moussa said the quota “has been abused in previous parliaments,” citing the 1994 parliamentary session where legislation was approved to privatise the public sector with no reaction from the half of parliament occupied by farmers and labourers.
“The request by farmers and laborers to keep articles related to the quota for one more parliamentary term will be discussed in the next assembly session,” Moussa said.
Article 229 of the 2012 constitution preserved the quota for the parliament that was scheduled for 2013 but never formed. Since then, the definition of “labourers and farmers” has been hotly debated.
Ibrahim referred to the quota as one of “the most important achievements of the July 1952 Revolution” saying it is currently “at risk”, reiterating his appeal to the government to start responding to workers’ requests.
Ibrahim and Abu Eita agreed on the need to immediately set up the meeting with the Constituent Assembly to discuss the predicament.
On 19 November Ibrahim, who is also the Constituent Assembly’s labour representative, announced his preliminary withdrawal from the assembly, pending consultation with the union. The ETUF has 6 million members and claims to represent 25 million Egyptians.
“A constitution that neglects the workers and farmers deserves a ‘no’ vote in the referendum,” Ibrahim said. “We will stand together and vote ‘no.’”
Abu Eita told the board members that the legislative committee of the ministry had completed the proposed amendments to the Labour Law No. (12) for the year 2003 and asked them to attend community dialogues with labourers. Dialogue is set to commence within the next few days with the participation of all stakeholders and civil society organisations.