Socialist Worker

Egypt’s new workers’ organisations are not for sale

by Anne Alexander
Issue No. 2260

Workers demand free unions  (Pic: Hossam el-Hamalawy)

Workers demand free unions (Pic: Hossam el-Hamalawy)

Egypt’s new independent unions are determined not to be “bought off” by forces that want to blunt their opposition to dictatorship and imperialism.

Fifteen workers’ organisations affiliated to the recently founded union federation released an important statement at the end of June.

In it they make clear the unions’ support for Palestinian liberation and rejection of all links to Israel.

In contrast to the old, state-run unions of the Mubarak era, the statement also asserts that the authority of the union lies with its rank and file.

Only officials elected by the rank and file have the right to speak on the unions’ behalf.

This is designed to reduce the danger of “outsiders”, such as NGO activists and politicians, using the workers’ movement for their own ends.

Financial independence is another central concern.

The unions have declared that they will not accept funding from any source other than their members’ own contributions.

This is particularly important, as Egypt’s right wing press claim the independent unions are a foreign-funded conspiracy against the state.

The statement shows that recent proposals from the British TUC to seek funding for the independent unions from the foreign office will be rejected by those leading the struggle for democracy and social justice.

The list of signatories to the statement shows how far workers’ organisation has developed.

It includes the unions that have already won important victories.

These include the property tax collectors, health science workers, two hospital workers’ general unions, Cairo bus workers, communication workers, and organisations of civil service workers and those in the ministry of labour.

But also signing up are unions representing peasants, civil aviation pilots and handicraft workers.

To read the statement go to the Middle East and North Africa Solidarity (Mena) website:

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