Egypt

Industrial Relations Framework

Labour legislation

The legal provisions around trade unions and the rights of workers to organise are somewhat murky since the 2011 revolution. Previously, the Trade Union Act of 1976 only recognised trade unions that were government-controlled and affiliated with the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF).

After the 2011 uprising, the number of independent trade unions proliferated. Workers established two major new union federations, the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions in 2011, and the Egyptian Democratic Labour Confederation in 2013. The country’s 2014 constitution bolstered these federations’ legal standing by guaranteeing workers’ rights to form independent unions. However, the government has not officially recognised new, independent unions.[80]

In 2015, the government-recognised federation ETUF questioned the legality of independent unions in a court case. A ruling is pending. The government has also announced that a new trade union law is in the pipeline, but no final draft has been released.[81]

There is also a disjuncture between the rights enshrined in the constitution and the reality. The 2014 Constitution guarantees workers’ rights, for example, freedom of association and collective bargaining.[82] However, the government has failed to protect these rights, and no new unions have been permitted to register since September 2015.[83] In March 2016, the government issued a directive to all state institutions not to recognise or deal with any independent trade unions and to invalidate these unions’ seals on documents. At every turn, these unions have faced bans on protests, intimidation, and even arrests of prominent       figures.[84]

Labour Code

The Labour Code passed in 2003 regulates vocational training, working conditions such as occupational health and safety, the work environment and working hours and wages of employees. The Code guarantees employees an annual increase of 7% on their basic salary. However, the Code’s regulations involving working hours, wages, and working conditions are not applicable for agricultural, fishery and domestic workers.

The Code also regulates collective bargaining, collective labour relations, labour disputes and the right to strike. The Labour Code also established the Consultative Council and the labour inspectorate.[85]

Civil Service Code[86]

The Civil Service Code, passed in 2015, extended probation periods of new employees to six months and has enabled employers to terminate contracts of unqualified employees after a notice period. This Code also ensures that employees are promoted based on their qualifications rather than seniority. In addition, retirement has been set at the age of 50 years.

Additional labour legislation that regulates and sets standards and restrictions for the Egyptian labour market can be viewed in PDF format on the International Labour Organization’s database, at http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/natlex4.countrySubjects?p_lang=en&p_country=EGY

Workers’ rights

In the 2016 Global Rights Index , which scores countries on a scale of 1–5 for the degree of respect for workers’ rights, Egypt scored 5 (with 1 being the best possible score). A score of 5 indicates no guarantee of rights, and countries with this score are the worst countries in the world to work in. Legislation includes certain rights for workers, but in practice these rights are not accessible to workers, exposing them to autocratic regimes and unfair labour practices.[87] In Egypt, workers’ right to strike or protest is routinely blocked, or they are punished after exercising these rights.[88]

Egypt ranks lower than South Africa and Nigeria, rated 2 and 4 respectively on the Workers’ Rights Index. Currently no country in Africa has a rating of 1, but the following countries in Africa have a rating of 2 (in alphabetical order): Congo, Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Togo.[89]

Labour regulations

The World Bank's Doing Business 2017 report provides the latest labour market regulations in Egypt in terms of hiring, working hours, redundancy rules, redundancy cost indicators, and job quality. These labour regulations are summarised in table 5.33 below.

Table 5.33: Summary of labour relations

Topic Answer
Fixed-term contracts prohibited for permanent tasks? No
Maximum length of a single fixed-term contract (months) No limit, but employee may terminate after 5 years
Maximum length of fixed-term contracts, including renewals (months) No limit
Minimum wage (US$/month) 0.0
Ratio of minimum wage to value added per worker 0.0
Maximum number of working days per week 6.0
Premium (% of hourly pay) For night work 0.0
For work on weekly rest day 0.0
For overtime work 35.0
Restrictions on night work? No
Can non-pregnant, non-nursing women work the same night hours as men? Yes
Restrictions on weekly holiday? No
Restrictions on overtime work? No
Paid annual leave (working days) for a worker with 1 year’s tenure 21.0
5 years’ tenure 21.0
10 years’ tenure 30.0
Maximum length of probationary period (months) 3.0
Dismissal due to redundancy allowed by law? Yes
Third-party notification of dismissal of One worker? Yes
Nine workers? Yes
Third-party approval for dismissal of One worker? Yes
Nine workers? Yes
Retraining or reassignment obligation before redundancy? No
Priority rules for redundancies? Yes
Priority rules for re-employment? No
Notice period for redundancy dismissal (in salary weeks) for a worker with 1 year’s tenure 8.7
5 years’ tenure 8.7
10 years’ tenure 13.0
Average 1, 5 and 10 years’ tenure 10.1
Severance pay for redundancy dismissal (salary weeks) for a worker with 1 year tenure 4.3
5 years’ tenure 21.7
10 years’ tenure 54.2
Average 1, 5 and 10 years’ tenure 26.7
Equal remuneration for work of equal value? No
Gender non-discrimination in hiring? No
Paid or unpaid maternity leave mandated by law? Yes
Minimum length of maternity leave (calendar days)? 90.0
Receive 100% of wages on maternity leave? Yes
Five fully paid days of sick leave a year? No
Unemployment protection after one year of employment? Yes
Minimum contribution period for unemployment protection (months) 6.0

Source: World Bank Group, 2017[90]

Trade unions, industrial action and dispute resolution

Trade unions

There were 1,606 registered trade unions in Egypt in 2013, representing roughly 6 million members and representing 22% of Egypt’s labour force and 39% among waged workers. The latest estimates suggest that approximately 2.1% of workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements.[91] However, as discussed above, independent unions have little to no legal standing. In practice, only unions affiliated to the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) are recognised.

By contrast, the two major independent union federations established after 2011, the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions and the Egyptian Democratic Labour Federation/Congress, represented 1.4 million and 120,000 respectively in the same year.[92] However, it is likely that many workers who joined independent unions kept their ETUF memberships to retain their access to social funds. This meant that the newer unions could not secure membership fees from many of their members who were still paying their fees to ETUF. Both of the two major independent federations have struggled to cover their most basic operating costs.[93]

Egyptian Trade Union Federation

Established in 1957, ETUF has 24 affiliated unions, and claimed that it represented 4.5 million workers in 2013 (though some argue the number could be as low as only 10% of that).[94] Other sources estimate that more recently the federation retained 16% of the workforce, compared to new union federations, which collectively accounted for 8%. As mentioned above, many workers have retained their ETUF memberships because the federation maintains its monopoly over the funds that provide social security and pension pay-outs to union members.[95]

Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions

The Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions was established in 2011. By 2013 it had approximately 300 member unions and 1.4 million members. Founding member unions include the Real Estate Taxes Authority Union, the Independent Healthcare Technician Union, the Independent Pension Holders Union, and the Independent School Teachers Trade Union.[96] However, research suggests that a large number of unions absorbed by the federation had very small memberships, and that the membership figure is an overestimate.

The federation struggled to administer the large number of new unions it absorbed after 2011, and its leadership exercised a top-down approach led to a lack of professionalism and transparency. Consequently, two members of the federation’s executive board withdrew to form new trade union federations in late 2013 and early 2015. By the end of 2015, several unions had left the federation to join the Egyptian Democratic Labour Congress.[97]

Egyptian Democratic Labour Federation/Congress

The Egyptian Democratic Labour Congress, launched in April 2013, adopted the opposite strategy, using a bottom-up approach to secure workers’ participation. The EDLC also dedicated resources to strengthening member unions from early on, which made it somewhat more stable than its counterpart.[98]

Table 5.34: Trade unions centres in Egypt (2013)

Trade Union/Trade Union Centre Total members
ETUF Egyptian Trade Union Federation 4,500,000
EFITU Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions 1,400,000
EDLC Egyptian Democratic Labour Congress 120,000

Source: Ulandssekretariatet, 2015[99]

Despite making some inroads into union membership, both of the two major independent union federations continue to experience problems. EFITU is characterised by deep divisions between its affiliated unions and a disengaged membership base. The EDLC, though more stable, is also not entirely consolidated. In addition to the pushback from ETUF and the government experienced by independent unions and union federations, these two federations’ own internal problems mean that they have limited capacity to influence the authorities.[100]

Employers' organisation

Federation of Egyptian Industries

Established in 1922, the Federation of Egyptian Industries (FEI) for the most part represents employers’ organisations, through 16 Industrial Chambers and 20 Decision Support Committees. The FEI is the main organisation for industries, as membership is mandatory. With government appointed members forming a third of its membership, the federation is largely   state-controlled.[101]

Dispute resolution

Mediation and arbitration

The Labour Code governs collective labour disputes. Firstly, there is a 30-day negotiation period between the two parties in dispute, followed by the appointing of a mediator. Arbitration is entered into by either party if meditation fails. The arbitration panel is made up of arbitrators comprising of one each from the court of appeal, the ministry, employers and the trade unions.

In 2013, the Ministry of Manpower and Immigration (MOMM) recorded 9,012 individual complaints and 908 group complaints from employees. Through negotiations between employees and employers, 65% of individual complaints and 85% of group disputes were resolved, with the remaining unresolved cases passed on to courts.[102]

Recent strike action

In the ten years before the 2011 uprising, Egypt experienced a period of intensified labour protests, where more than two billion Egyptians participated in approximately 3,300 strikes, sit-ins and other forms of protest. Leading up to the 2011 uprising, these strikes were used as a political tool intended to force Mubarak to step down. Thousands of Egyptian workers stopped working and participated in a nationwide strike on the 9 February 2011, demanding better wages and benefits, and linking these economic demands to Mubarak stepping down.[103]

Despite workers’ right to freedom of association set out in the country’s 2014 constitution, strike action has been largely suppressed in recent years. Since May 2016 police have arrested and “disappeared” striking workers (their whereabouts is unknown), tried some of them in military courts and raided their homes. Strikes and sit-ins are punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment.[104]

In February 2017, roughly 3,000 textile workers in the city of el-Mahalla el-Kubra embarked on a strike. The strike ended abruptly after its second day because police arrested several striking workers and others were threatened with being fired.[105]

In December 2016 and January 2017, workers at the privately-owned IFFCO oil products factory embarked on a strike and sit-in for a fair salary distribution. Police forcibly dispersed striking workers in early January and arrested over 20, who later faced trial. Though arrested workers were finally acquitted in March 2017, they and others who had been fired after the strike were not reinstated.[106]

These are just the most recent cases of industrial action illustrating just how limited workers’ rights are in reality. Strike action or sit-ins are embarked on at the risk of arrest or being fired, leaving workers with little protection or recourse.

  • Country Profile
  • Introduction
  • Broad Economic Indicators
  • Currency and Exchange Rate
  • Competitiveness and Ease of Doing Business
  • Foreign Investment and Largest Companies
  • Foreign Aid
  • Country Strategic Framework
  • Summary of Economic Conditions
  • Implications, Challenges and Recommendations
  • Population
  • Living Standards and Poverty Levels
  • Healthcare
  • Implications, Challenges and Recommendations
  • Qualifications Profile of the Population and Workforce
  • Levels of Schooling and Basic Education
  • Technical and Vocational Education and Training
  • Tertiary Education
  • Innovation in Egypt
  • Implications, Challenges and Recommendations
  • Labour Force
  • Employment by Sector
  • Employment by Skill Level
  • Employment by Occupation
  • Labour Productivity
  • Unemployment and Job Creation
  • Expatriates, Immigrants and the Egyptian Diaspora
  • Wage and Salary Trends and Social Insurance
  • Industrial Relations Framework
  • Labour Market Efficiency
  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution
  • Implications, Challenges and Recommendations

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