The Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) has urged its members to vote in support of the constitution during next month’s referendum, despite the constitutional committee’s decision to exclude a parliamentary quota for workers and farmers.
In a Tuesday statement about the current events, the ETUF said it is prepared to work with any group that “wishes to coordinate with us for social dialogue for the good of workers and to support the roadmap to achieve stability at work.”
The ETUF representatives left the constitutional committee in late November after the committee scrapped a provision that would guarantee farmers and workers half the seats in parliament —a quota that had been in place since the 1960s.
But while affirming its support for the police and military, the ETUF criticised anti-labour “authorities” and groups in its statement.
“We are surprised that we receive stabs in the back from the authorities and people who we thought [were our allies],” read the statement. “They support and assist secretly and openly to dissolve the Egyptian trade union movement at a time that requires more unity to protect our workers, production and the goals of our revolution.”
Despite disappointment surrounding the current constitution’s lack of an established quota, ETUF spokesman Moustafa Rostom said that a “yes” vote is necessary in the referendum to ensure Egypt’s future.
“We need the roadmap to go ahead, and this is the only way,” said Rostom. “Despite the fact that we are against the [loss of the quota], we cannot tell the people not to vote. We need stability in society, and stability will come through the referendum and the president.”
If the constitution passes the referendum, the ETUF will lobby parliament to make a law reinstating the quota, said Rostom.
The statement also reaffirmed the ETUF’s commitment to solidarity with workers demanding more rights and better pay, specifically citing poor conditions in the textile industry and the iron and steel industry.
ETUF is the largest union representing both farmers and labourers across the country. Its membership totals 6 million, and it claims to “shelter” and represent another 25 million.
Along with workers and farmers, women and youth also demanded that the new constitution include parliamentary quotas for their respective demographic groups. The consensus amongst women’s rights groups was that women should be guaranteed 30% of the seats in parliament for the first 10 years of the new constitution.
The final draft of the constitution did not include any quotas.