Trade union rights

ILO Director-General expresses concern over freedom of association in Egypt

“I wish to stress that it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure the application of the international labour Conventions on freedom of association that it has freely ratified and which must be respected by all state authorities,” said Guy Ryder in a letter to the Egyptian President.

Press release | 08 April 2016
GENEVA (ILO News) – The Director-General of the International Labour Organization, Guy Ryder, has expressed concern over threats to human and trade union rights in Egypt.

In a letter to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Mr Ryder said: “I wish to stress that it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure the application of the international labour Conventions on freedom of association that it has freely ratified and which must be respected by all state authorities.”

He further demanded that a recent ban which prohibits official recognition of independent trade unions be revoked. The ban restricts unions from publishing official documents, prohibits collective bargaining and exposes union leaders to the risk of dismissal and arrest. As such, this action represents a serious violation of ILO conventions on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (Convention 87) and the Application of the Principles of the Right to Organise and to Bargain Collectively (Convention 98), both ratified by Egypt.

For several years, the International Labour Conference has been calling upon the government to end discrepancies between existing national legislations, in particular as regards the Trade Union Act No. 35 of 1976, and Conventions C.87 and C.98.

Since the International Labour Conference of 2008, requests have been made to the country to adopt a new trade union law in order to ensure full respect for freedom of association rights.

The Government of Egypt has committed that all trade unions in the country, including the independent trade unions, would be able to exercise their activities and elect their officers in full freedom in accordance with Egypt’s international obligations according to Convention 87, pending the adoption of a new freedom of association law.

The 2015 Report of the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association firmly expressed the expectation “that the draft labour law will be adopted as a matter of priority giving clear legislative protection to the numerous newly formed independent trade unions and ensuring full respect for freedom of association rights”.

That Report encouraged the Government to continue to avail itself of the technical assistance of the International Labour Office in this regard.

In a statement to the March session of the ILO Governing Body on “the threat to human and trade union rights in Egypt”, the Workers’ Group expressed outrage about the death of Giulio Regeni, an Italian PhD student who was in Cairo researching trade unions and freedom of association and who was found dead on February 4, his body bearing signs of torture. They called for an independent inquiry into his death.

The Director-General made a strong call for the Government to “expeditiously clarify all the facts” surrounding the death of Mr Regeni.