President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a presidential decree Thursday extending the terms for board members of the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) for another year, inciting the ire of critics who point out that ETUF elections are now four years overdue.
In the absence of union elections, the Manpower Ministry has been appointing its board members since 2011.
According to the Trade Union Law, ETUF elections should be held every five years, but the country’s largest labor federation hasn’t held elections since October through November 2006. An Administrative Court ruling invalidated those polls in late 2006 due to the lack of judicial oversight.
Independent union organizers and other critics argue that by extending the terms for unelected ETUF leaders, Thursday’s decree facilitates the state’s direct control over the federation. They also lambaste the move for encouraging a lack of transparency and accountability among the union’s leaders.
“These elections are being postponed, yet again, because the ruling authorities do not want to lose their control over this state apparatus. The regime wants to keep the ETUF under its wing,” Nagy Rashad, a former caretaker member of the ETUF, told Mada Masr.
Rashad further argued that the decree “is a non-democratic measure and has clear authoritarian dimensions.”
He pointed out that the ETUF has remained under state control since it was founded in 1957, “and since the January 25 revolution [of 2011], we’ve witnessed how all the interim and ruling authorities have sought to keep the ETUF in line with their political and economic objectives, in order to serve their own interests — just as [former President Hosni] Mubarak had done before them.”
ETUF leaders joined Sisi on April 27 to commemorate Labor Day at Cairo’s Police Academy this year. At this official event, ETUF’s acting president Gebali al-Maraghi presented Sisi with a declaration from his federation pledging that its members would reject labor strikes and refrain from other forms of industrial protests.
“We demand free and fair elections so as to insure that the ETUF becomes a representative trade union body, which genuinely represents its members, as opposed to representing the interests of the ruling regime. We also demand new legislation to replace Trade Union Law 35/1976, which allows for indirect elections of the ETUF’s top leaders,” Rashad concluded.
ETUF elections have been postponed time and time again since 2011 under the pretext of avoiding overlap with parliamentary elections.
However, the parliamentary elections that were slated for March and April of this year are now also overdue, having passed the deadline stipulated by constitutional Article 230. The Supreme Constitutional Court halted those elections on March 1, on the basis that the law on electoral constituencies does not guarantee fair voter representation.