Following the initial declaration of a new union federation in Tahrir Square during the protests leading to the overthrow of Mubarak, the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions officially announced its formation at a conference held at the Journalists’ Syndicate on March 2nd that brought together several hundred independent trade unionists and labour activists.
A participant report by Tamer Fathy, International Coordinator of the Centre for Trade Union and Workers’ Services, can be found here.
“The Preparatory Conference for the Egyptian Federation of Independent Unions held on Wednesday marks thebirth of Egypt’s first independent trade union federation since 1957.
Several hundred workers, professionals and labor activists from across the country cheered what they anticipated would amount to impending death for the state-run Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF)…”
The new federation is already gaining support from workers involved in the strike wave crossing Egypt. The article continues:
“Elsewhere across the country, an untold number of workers are organizing their own independent associations — leagues, unions, syndicates and federations — outside the framework of the ETUF.
“Other workers have announced they will be joining the ranks of the new independent federation. These include tens of thousands from the Mahalla Textile Company, the Public Transport Authority (bus drivers, conductors, mechanics, engineers and employees across Cairo), national postal workers, the Helwan Iron and Steel Complex, and the industrial workers in the town of Naga’ Hamadi.
“Thousands in private sector enterprises, including industrial workers from the cities of Tenth of Ramadan and Sadat, have also expressed their intention to unionize and join the Egyptian Federation of Independent Unions.”
“The atmosphere was lively as the conference’s tone wavered between talk of past suppression and hardship to talk of present and future triumphs. Salah Abdel Salam explained how the Real Estate Tax Union came to be formed: ‘We needed to get out of the ETUF’s shadow which had unjustly treated us and deprived us of our rights for decades…We staged a true, true sit-in in front of the ministry of finance so we could take back our rights. This sit-in was in 2007… and it was the Real Estate Tax Union which hammered the first nail in the coffin of Mubarak’s regime. We slept in the streets for 13 days because you won’t get your rights unless you sit-in.’
“Kamal Abbas of the Centre for Trade Union and Worker Services gave an electrifying speech in which he said: ‘The ETUF is in front of us and Hussein Megawer is still sitting inside and he’s still trying to speak on behalf of the workers of Egypt. They gave a statement after their conference yesterday announcing that they accepted the right for us to form our own unions. Come now, come now, brother! This is too little too late. It is we who now say that we don’t accept your right to exist from this day forward!
‘This federation collapsed along with the collapse of the regime.’”