The labour committee of parliament concluded a discussion on the new draft labour law which includes 276 articles. It provides each profession an official framework and entity. The draft law was referred to the general session and is pending discussion and approval. Meanwhile, internal elections of Egyptian trade unions started after a 12-year halt.
With regard to the conditions of workers, the new labour law, and trade union elections, Daily News Egypt interviewed MP Gabali Al-Maraghi, head of the labour committee of parliament and chairperson of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation.
What are the most prominent amendments to the draft labour law?
The new draft labour law was co-drafted by several parties: members of trade unions, the labour committee of parliament, employers’ organisations, investors’ associations, the Federation of Egyptian Industries (FEI), and the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce (FEDCOC), in addition to the Ministry of Manpower. The new draft law includes 276 articles, providing each profession an official framework and entity. The draft law was referred to the general session and is pending discussion and approval.
What would the workers gain from the new law?
The law aims to balance the relation between employers and their employees so that neither party violates the rights of the other. The employer has to provide a safe environment for workers as well as health and social care. These are the main rights secured by the Egyptian Constitution to achieve job security and stability within society.
Will the new law prevent the arbitrary dismissal of workers and protect them from the control of their employers?
The new draft law will guarantee the protection of workers and the employers’ rights through avoiding the defects of the current Law 12 of 2003. It will come in line with the recommendations of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and international conventions, of which the most important will be the protection of workers from arbitrary dismissal.
Is the protection provided by the new law sufficient for workers?
The new law stipulated that employers have the right to dismiss their workers on legal terms and conditions, where an employer has the right to file a case in a specialised court demanding the dismissal of a certain worker. Meanwhile, the worker has the right to resort to the Labour Bureau to follow up the case filed against them in court. Moreover, the new draft law requires the approval of the worker’s resignation from the administrative authority to be formed and to stop the phenomenon of forcing workers to sign their resignation letters before beginning the job.
Does the draft law have other objectives?
The new labour law has several advantages, as it will contribute to encouraging young people to work in the private sector and providing a safe environment for workers. It also pays more attention to the training and education of workers, as well as people with special needs and women’s rights to work.
The draft law also stipulates that working hours shall include one or two periods for eating and rest, not less than a total of one hour, on the condition that the worker shall not work for more than five consecutive hours. Employees shall also be entitled to annual leave, not including official holidays, feasts, and weekends, up to 15 days in the first year, 21 days in the second year, 30 days for those who spent 10 years or more, and 45 days for those aged 50 years old or older and people with special needs.
The new law will maintain the workers’ rights stipulated in previous laws and provide definitions for all terms used in the law to remove any ambiguities.
The draft law specified the wage elements in detail and the workers’ rights to receive a share of profits. It also set a minimum term for contracts of not less than one year to ensure workers’ rights. The law determined that the approval or cancelling of resignation shall be conducted through an administrative authority. It also stipulated that the government shall establish new labour courts to expedite adjudication in employment cases.
Why did the new law stipulate the establishment of new labour courts?
The new labour courts will follow the steps of family courts. The law gave workers the right to resort to labour organisations to follow up on cases filed against them, while the employer shall have the right to mandate whoever he wishes in such cases.
The draft law stipulated, for the first time, the establishment of legal aid offices in courts to provide free and optional legal services. The law also ensured collective negotiation as stipulated in the constitution, while the conciliation shall be conducted by an administrative authority. In addition, an arbitration and litigation centre will be established to resolve the disputes of the employment parties instead of ordinary jurisdiction.
What about temporary employment conditions?
Normally, the temporary contract is renewed every year until it becomes a permanent contract after four years. In that case, temporary workers still face the danger of dismissal at any time as the employer can present a memorandum to the court or the Ministry of Manpower to demand the abandoning of any employee. However, the new draft law guarantees those workers the right to receive their payment as long as the contract is renewed. The new law requires employers who dismiss any temporary worker to pay them two months’ worth of wages for each year of service.
Would the new law encourage employment in the private sector?
The new labour law addresses a large group of private sector workers, avoiding all gaps in the current Law 12 of 2003. It provides a real guarantee of stability within an encouraging work environment through the abolition of arbitrary dismissal and requiring resignation approval from the Labour Bureau located in the worker’s residency area, in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.
What about irregular employment which the president has asked be taken care of?
We all listened to the instructions of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and we are working to provide all support to that segment. The new draft law created a fund for irregular employment, instead of the previous fund which was created by a ministerial decree. The fund shall be managed by the concerned minister and will have branches nationwide. The law also specifies a certain fee to be paid by the entities that employ those workers of not less than 1% and not more than 3% of the total wages.
What did you do regarding the halted factories that affected the lives of thousands of families in the past years?
The new law deals with the workers as essential partners in the management of their work and the development of the production process through their elected trade unions. Also, the Ministry of Manpower, in cooperation with trade unions, organises joint seminars with the administrations of private sector establishments in the industrial cities to develop negotiation skills and provide a safe environment for the employees and work to ensure good production.
Are there specific agencies that help troubled factories and their labour?
There is a contingency fund, affiliated with the Ministry of Manpower, that supports the labourers who have been affected or lost their jobs due to closure or halting of production. That fund was established by law to support the workers and employers during the halt period. The fund pays the workers’ wages for six months until the factory’s revival. The new labour law will regulate the required procedures and rules to rescue the closed factory from its stumbling. There is also the National Council on Vocational Training (NCVT) that is responsible for training and qualifying workers to deal with modern machines and equipment. In addition, the new law regulates the scheduling or postponement of debt payments until the troubled company settles its issues.
What did the parliamentary committee do to improve pensions and social insurance laws?
The labour committee of parliament was keen from the very beginning on developing the labour legislation to keep abreast of new developments and national megaprojects. The committee contributed to the issuance of the investment, associations, media, trade unions, and the freedom of association and protection of the right to organise laws which regulated the labour union elections held on 16 May. The elections included three levels, namely the trade union committees, the general syndicates, and the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF).
How do you see setting a suitable minimum wage under the current economic conditions?
In Egypt, there are three labour laws, namely Civil Service Law 81 of 2016 concerning state employees, estimated at about 6 million, Public Sector Law 203 of 1991 concerning the workers of state-owned companies, and Labour Law 12 of 2003 which includes workers in the private sector, estimated at about 18 million.
There are also some regulations concerning the wages which are stipulated in the investment and joint stock companies laws.
There is also the National Council for Wages, established based on the Labour Law, which includes representatives from the ETUF, employers, and the government. It is concerned with studying and linking wages to the prices of goods and services. This council recommends increasing the minimum wage every three years in line with the inflation rate.
How do you see the first round of the ETUF elections?
They were the first ETUF elections since 2006 and they were launched under the trade unions and the right to organise laws which were approved by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. These laws came in line with international labour conventions, ratified by Egypt, on the exercise of trade union freedoms.
The elections were held in three rounds. The first includes the trade union committees at the production and service sites, which there are up to 5,000 of. These committees’ general assemblies, which pay monthly subscriptions to the unions, are estimated at about 6.5 million workers out of 25 million in Egypt.
The second round concerns the boards of the 24 general unions. The candidacy in that round was opened to those who won the first round. The third and last round is the election of the board of directors of the ETUF, which comprises 24 members.
The first session of the election winners shall be held to elect the chairperson, deputies, secretaries general, and treasurers.