CAIRO: The Administrative Court began on Tuesday hearing the trials of two lawsuits filed by workers and labor activists, one demanding the disbandment of the official Egyptian Trade Unions Federation (ETUF) and the other cancelling Law 34/2011 criminalizing some protests and strikes.
The court has not issued a ruling in either case.
"The ETUF is illegitimate and must be disbanded because its membership is compulsory — contrary to the rules of syndicates — its elections were proven to be forged by court rulings and [its officials] participated in actions against the revolution," said Kamal Abbas, general coordinator of Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services (CTUWS).
"It is one of the ousted regime's tools and must be [fully] disbanded," he added.
Mohamed Al-Damaty, workers’ lawyer in the case, told the court that the ETUF does not represent workers, referencing a previous case which ended by dissolving the National Democratic Party (NDP).
"This federation has never represented workers' interests contrary to independent trade unions and was involved in privatization deals that negatively affected workers," he said.
Ismail Fahmy, acting head of 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. Abbas had previously said that the ETUF doesn’t have enough influence to mobilize such general strike.
During a session at an International Labor Organization conference last week, 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."
The ETUF, in turn, assigned its legal consultant to file a complaint to the Prosecutor General against supporters of independent trade unions.
The court also listened to Khaled Ali, head of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), who demanded the cancellation of Law 34/2011 issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and Cabinet, criminalizing some protests and strike.
"Protests and strikes have always been workers' only weapon … since they have no ability to negotiate with the government — depriving them of this right is depriving them from voicing their suffering," he said.
"The law was billed as the ‘freedom of work and preventing sabotage’ law, while it is actually meant to prevent workers and poor people from protesting," Ali said.
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.
Ten farmers who were arrested last week during a protest were ordered released Sunday on LE 10,000 bail, an amount that was latter scrapped.
Ali said that the law contradicts Articles 7, 12, 16 and 25 of the constitutional declaration addressing social and public freedoms and was falsely based on the state of emergency that only addresses terrorism and drug dealing cases, and that Article 375 of the penal law protects freedom of work.
He showed the court previous rulings that affirmed workers' right to strike and the need to change Egyptian law to allow for protests to comply with international agreements signed by the government.