- October 19, 2006
Egypt: MB Platform For Labor Union Elections
As the Workers’ Union election is drawing near, all workers live a wait and see state of affairs, with debates and questions among them as to how free and fair these elections will be, and whether the winners will put an end to the decade- long sufferings of workers socially and economically, or that the elections will only bring about the same faces with the same status quo. While the government amassed all its potentials to retain its control on the Union by all legal and illegal means, so did the Muslim Brotherhood.
But the stark difference is that the group got itself ready with an all inclusive reform program with the aim to rehabilitate the deteriorating situation of the Egyptian workers, not only because they are the most in number but also because they are the most underprivileged class especially with the emergence of a sea of tycoons within this sector.
Ikhwanweb met with a number of MB workers leaderships to brief us on the nature of the group’s platform and if there will be coordination with other political forces especially the leftists. We also asked them if there are security problems, the number of candidates, and the regions with influential voting centers .
MB platform in the upcoming Workers’ Union election:
Member of MB Parliamentary Bloc Saber Abul Fotouh who was named by the group to act as a coordinator in the Workers’ Union elections, said in an exclusive statement to Ikhwanweb that the platform launched by Muslim Brotherhood is a three- prong reformist one .
He explained that the first and central point of reform is the worker himself, so the first axis of this reformist agenda will demand increases in wages in a way that makes incomes proportional to the price rises, in addition that Committee of Fares should be restored to its activity after years of stoppage. The second axis is, according to Abul Fotouh, new policies should be adopted to secure all workers’ rights enshrined in laws and statutes, besides enacting laws which preserve the worker’s safety and dignity.
This second axis also includes provision of environment fit for the nature of jobs as well as provision of proper social, health and recreational rights to the workers, regarding these demands as workers’ inalienable rights; he said the MB strongly rejects privatization of the workers’ health insurance, which, if privatized, could pose a threat to the worker’s health rights.
The second axis of the MB workers’ reformist agenda revolves around the yearlong privatization program by which the government has sold out national industry and the ensuing embezzlement and manipulation of public funds as a result. The third axis in the MB program calls for enhancing the national industrial entities .
The MB member of parliament also said that the ultimate target of this platform is to help workers achieve their long awaited independent professional syndicate to end the control of the state, citing the Engineering Syndicate which has been under receivership for more than a decade.
Among the positive outcome of an independent syndicate is that the branches affiliated to it will also enjoy independence and ,as a result , the relationship of Workers’ Union with the state will be restricted to coordination for drawing up policies and following them, and this is what the MB program gets at.
Participation not Monopolization
On the MB strategy in the Workers’ Union election, Abul Fotouh said that the group adopts the notion of participation rather than monopolization. He expounded that the Muslim Brotherhood will field candidates in only 15% of the seats.
Abul Fotouh decried what he called “a crime committed by the regime” in collaboration with other political forces and parties especially al Karama Party( under construction ) and Tajamu(with Nasserite inclinations ) which hammered out a deal with the government by which they win a number of seats in return for these parties forgetting about full supervision of judiciary or civil society organizations on the election, and, above all , to stem the Muslim Brotherhood from getting a landslide victory in the election as was the case in the recent parliamentary election. “The MB election programs differ from a work place to another according to the nature and demands or workers”, said MB Member of Parliament Ali Fateh el Bab, who is also a leading trade unionist and member of Steel Company’s board of director.
However, he hastened to say that there are broad lines and constants which act as a framework for invariably all MB candidates, echoing the three axes mentioned by Abdul Fotouh. Commenting on the second axis of the MB program which relates to combating privatization, Fateh el Bab said that the MB doesn’t mean by this to combat privatization in principle, but to rationalize it so that the government does not pursuer selling for the sake of selling. He pointed out that one of the ultimate targets of privatization is provision of an atmosphere of freedom to the companies administrations and adopting efficiency as a criteria for selecting management of these privatized companies, in addition to amending laws of the public sector which restrict the movement of the management.
However, Fateh el Bab called on the government to think twice before it embarks on privatizing any public sector facilities, advising it to sell only the loss making units. He accused the government of selling some profit making units to finance its budge deficit, sarcastically equaling this act to one who sells his house to spend on his family.
He called for using the returns of privatization for more profitable projects, pointing out that this is the essence of difference between MB’s vision and that of the leftists who reject privatization entirely. “ The leftists adopt the slogan of No to Privatization, as if they live on another planet”, he said. Fateh el Bab also said the MB will submit a draft law demanding each work facility to submit a strong professional society to defend the workers’ rights against any injustices on the part of the employer against his workers, pointing out that this draft law, if enacted, will create a strong Workers’ Union that withstand all changes in society especially that many private sector companies have no professional organized societies to speak for the workers under the pretext that it is not legally binding.
It is noted that the Workers’ Union has decided to hold the election on three phases in one week . Strong criticisms were leveled by the opposition political forces topped by Muslim Brotherhood that the government has decided to hold the largest part of election, which will include all workers nationwide, in one day, saying that this will make it too difficult for the civil society organizations to follow the events of the elections.