Egypt is one of the 10 worst countries in the world for working people
Prosecution of strikers
Union-busting and dismissals
Workers in Egypt remained deprived of their basic rights and freedoms at work, while many independent trade unions were still seeking re-registration after their arbitrary dissolution in 2018.
Strikes were systematically suppressed, with workers arrested and detained by police forces and strikers later dismissed by their employers.
New laws were introduced in 2021 to further curtail freedom of speech and assembly. On 1 August 2021, President al-Sisi approved legislation which allows public administrations to dismiss any civil servant suspected of belonging to groups classified as “terrorist” in Egypt as well as those who “harm public services or the economic interests of the state”. On 23 November 2021, al-Sisi ratified amendments which codify and cement a permanent state of emergency in Egypt, allowing more civilians to be referred to military courts and eroding further guarantees to a fair trial.
Workers' rights violations
Right to trade union activities
On 11 May 2021, the Alexandria Spinning and Weaving Company refused to allow Ashraf Nassef, head of the workers’ trade union committee, and Faraj Al-Najjar, the union’s treasurer, to enter the company to speak to their members. This followed an incident on 4 March 2021 when management transferred seven members of the company’s union committee from their technical jobs to administrative security because of their union activities. The seven trade union members were Faraj Saeed, vice chairman of the trade union committee; Mahmoud IbrahimEl-Gohari, treasurer of the trade union committee; Mohamed Al-Masry, board member; Mohamed MohamedIbrahim, assistant treasurer; Mohamed Youssef, board member; MagdyMarei, board member; and Tariq Bakr, board member.
On 1 August 2021, President Al-Sisi approved legislation which allows public administrations to dismiss any civil servant suspected of belonging to groups classified as “terrorist” in Egypt as well as those who “harm public services or the economic interests of the state”. On 23 November 2021, al-Sisi ratified amendments which codify and cement a permanent state of emergency in Egypt, allowing more civilians to be referred to military courts and eroding further guarantees to a fair trial.
Right to civil liberties
Abdel-Wahab Radwan, vice chairman of the Syndicate Committee of Public Transport Authority Employees in Egypt, was arrested in May 2021 because of his trade union activities. The trade union leader was still in pretrial detention in 2022 pending the hearing of his case. He was charged with “being a member of a terrorist group and misusing social media”.
Right to trade union activities
In Egypt, all independent unions were dissolved in March 2018. Since then, many have faced countless administrative hurdles and in 2022 were still seeking official registration with the authorities. Where a yellow union already existed in the workplace, unions encountered further difficulties, with employers claiming that under the 2017 law, only one trade union committee can be established, thus preventing the formation of a new union.
Right to collective bargaining
In September 2021, 2,000 workers from the Universal Group Co., an Egyptian manufacturer of home appliances, organised a protest, demanding the payment of their wages for July and August and other benefits that had been suspended for a long time. These workers represented five factories out of the nine in the group. The workers especially denounced management violation of the agreement signed in October 2019 with the Ministry of Manpower in which it committed to paying wages. At that time, the ministry had bailed the company and paid the 5,000 workers out of the emergency fund for a period of six months to encourage the company not to lay off workers, but the group proceeded to force the workers to resign.
Dismissals for participating in strike action
On 2 August 2021, Egyptian razor manufacturer LordInternational Co. terminated 38 workers who took part in a strike involving 2,000 workers at the company that began in late July 2021 and brought production in two out of the company’s three factories to a halt. In a statement, the company also said that it had referred some of the striking workers for internal investigation.
The striking workers were calling for a minimum profit share rate and for their annually renewable contracts to be changed to permanent ones. They also demanded that management guarantee protesting workers would not face disciplinary action or dismissal. Instead, the company announced that workers who had been identified as the “instigators of the strike” would be fired or suspended, and that those suspended could also face disciplinary measures and further investigation.
Prosecution of union leaders for participating in strikes
On 28 September 2021, Egyptian security forces cracked down on a peaceful strike at Universal for Electrical Appliances. Ten days before, about 2,000 workers had begun a sit-in at the company’s headquarters following the death of a colleague from a heart attack after working overtime because of financial pressure. The workers had not been paid for two months.
On 28 September, security forces surrounded the sit-in, closed the gates, and prevented workers from going out even to buy food. Hours earlier, security forces raided the houses of three workers: Saeed Abdel Qader, Said Mohamed Abdel Latif and Mahmoud Ahmed Haridy, who was recovering at home after having fallen into a diabetic coma. The three were taken into custody. Haridy’s daughter followed her father to the Warraq police station and inquired after her him, but officers who were at her home less than an hour earlier denied knowledge of the incident. A non-commissioned officer advised her to go to the Imbaba police station, where she was told that her father had been taken to the headquarters of the National Security Agency, a special police force, notorious for human rights violations, involved in policing so-called “national security threats”, including independent labour movements.