Egyptian Professionals under Guard and Siege

 Professional syndicates and trade unions are amongst the most important aspects of democratic practice in Western countries. In these countries we find what is called “parallel unions” which exercise its activities freely. However, Egyptian professional syndicates are different. Most of these syndicates are either under the control of the governing National Party or under close guard. The most famous example here is Engineers Syndicate which still under the guard of the government up till now. Since fifteen years ago, Egyptian regime have imposed the policy of close observation on the Egyptian professional syndicates, this policy aims at turning the engineers, physicians and commercial syndicates into idle entities in the Egyptian Political arena. As a result, the Professionals despaired of achieving any reform. Moreover, some of them resorted to the United Nation to solve this problem.

Before the wake of the professionals from law 100 of 1993 and its amendments, the government is preparing a new law prepared by the secretariat of the trade professionals of the NDP; or “The law of Shehab” as it is called by the Professionals, referring to Dr. Mufid Shehab who enacted this law. Furthermore, they refused this law, warning of its danger to the trade union movement and the entire Egyptian political street.

The professionals wonder about the causes of the government’s insistence on judicial supervision over the unions elections at a time when judges excluded from the full supervision of presidential and legislative elections. They pointed to the apparent contradiction between the president who govern the country with 7% of the electorate, while the law No.100 requires the presence of 50% of the members of the general assemblies of unions until the elections are valid.

Dr. Magdi Korkor, the former Secretary-General of the Labor Party, and the leading figure in the engineers syndicate said, “The basic objective of the governmental insistence on the judicial supervision over the trade unions elections, is to disrupt the elections therein, especially when the National Party has no real supporters between the professionals as well as the difficulty of the rigging of elections. For this, the government laid the responsibility of all union elections on the shoulder of the head of South Cairo Court of Appeal, which is over his capacity. The result is that no elections since enacting the law No. 100 of 1993 except for the syndicate of journalists and lawyers.

Korkor added: “Due to the difficulty of obtaining cadres of the ruling National Democratic Party seats in professional syndicates, the State resorted to the law No.100 to hold elections inside the headquarters of the work under government’s control and the public sector, so that the heads of boards and general managers can exercise their influence on the voters of workers in those institutions.”

Korkor expressed his surprise at the State’s stance as an obstacle on the way of the Engineers Syndicate elections for 12 years under the pretext that audit payroll of the people who have the right of election has not ended yet and will not end, which forced them (the engineers) to sue the head of South Cairo Court of Appeal before the Administrative Tribunal, so that the government pushed the judiciary to intervene in order to disrupt the judgment. In the following sessions, it prompted the trustees in subsidiary syndicates and engineers at odds with union council to intervene, in order to disrupt the judgment.

Korkor pointed out that the State is trying to look for a little bit of time to pass the law of Dr. Mufid Shehab; the Secretary of professionals in the National Democratic Party, to disrupt the elections until the law is passed by Egyptian People’s Assembly.

Korkor said: “The elections of the lawyers syndicate are acceptable model, in which the formation of the council is formed by sectional and geographical representation or by the idea of the community election.”

Dr. Ali Sabri, the Chairman of the Follow-up Committee in the engineers syndicate believes that the reason of disruption of the elections in trade unions is not only the adherence to the judicial supervision, but also the fears of the state from the control of the Muslim Brotherhood on the trade unions.

Sabri called to the necessity of giving professionals the right to conduct their elections themselves because upholding judicial supervision led to disruption of elections for 12 years in the Engineers Association, which caused significant financial losses.

Gamal Taguddin, member of the Bar Council of lawyers syndicate, attributed this to the phenomenon of «double standards» with the question of elections. While legislations ignore to determine the percentage should be made available in presidential and parliamentary elections, the situation is different in the professional syndicates and the reason, in his view, is the lack of government control over it and therefore resorted to determine high quorum and to possess all powers.

Tag called upon whom he called “The wise and reasonable men of the ruling regime” – not to resort to the use of weapons of legislation in order to change the political reality for them because this would create complexities difficult to be resolved on the political scene.

He criticized the government’s insistence on putting the syndicate elections under the supervision of the judiciary at a time when it ignores this to the presidential elections and the People’s Assembly and Shura Council.

Dr. Esam Al-`Eryan, the Secretary-General of the Medical Syndicate said, “The Egyptian regime contradicts itself, they imagine that we are unaware of what they are doing. While it cancels judicial supervision of the presidential and legislative elections under the pretext of not wasting the time of judges, it uphold them in the syndicates elections and even appointed judicial committees for the management of trade unions under guard.”

Al-`Eryan added, “Egyptian government does not want strong institutions, he expressed his surprise at the percentage of 50% for a quorum of the election of the Bar, at the time it allows electing of the President by less than 7% of the votes of the Egyptians.”

He criticized the attitude of the judiciary committee refusing to hold elections in Medical Association while the current Bar got three judicial rulings to run the elections, the members of the Judicial Committee did not respect the decisions of the judiciary.

Fifteen years passed after freezing the unions

Under Law No. 100 several trade unions kept under receivership. For example, no elections have been done in the doctors syndicate since more than 12 years, the Engineers Association as well as is in custody since June 1995, the Agricultural Association under guard for 15 years, the Teachers Association had not witnessed elections for 15 years.

The establishment of trade unions in Egypt began in 1912, when the Lawyers syndicate was established before the civil courts, and then followed by establishing the Lawyers syndicate before the personal status courts in 1916, followed by unions of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary in 1940, then the syndicate of journalists in 1941, and engineering occupations in 1946, and agricultural occupations in 1949, and the educational occupations in 1951.

Several laws of establishing trade unions stipulated a condition to give one of the ministers specific powers concerning the union, according to the article «20» of law 66 for 1974, on the Engineers Association, the Minister of Irrigation has the right to challenge the validity of the general assembly or its decisions or in the elections of the head and members of the Association Council. This can be done by presenting a report before the Administrative Tribunal in the State Council during the fifteen days from the date of the notification of the decisions of general assembly or the outcome of the elections.

According to the provisions of Article 20 of Law No. 67 of 1974 on the union of art syndicate, the minister of industry is entitled to challenge to the validity of the general assembly. Same thing is applied for the Association of Nursing, law 15 of 1976 includes that the Minister of Health has the right to call extraordinary general assembly to convene within 15 days unless the Council invites it to convene, and has the right to challenge the outcome of the elections of the head and members of the Council.

Article 29 of Law 46 of 1969 with regard to Dentists Association provides that the Council of the union should inform the ministers of health and interior with all decisions taken by the Council.

Article 62 of Law 76 of 1970, concerning the establishment of the Press Association provides that the Minister for National Guidance is entitled to challenge the formation of the general assembly and the formation of the union council and has also the right to challenge the decisions of the general assembly.

Features of the alternative project proposed by the unions

Leaders of syndicates suggested several conceptions to be as an alternative law rather law 100 of 1993, the most important features of this law are:

1.      For the validity of electing of chairman and members of the general or the subsidiary Association Council, vote of 25% of the number of registered members of the general assembly named in the tables of the syndicate who have the right to vote, in accordance with the provisions of the law of each union, each union has the right to present its own proposal of adjustments in the number and form of its General Assembly.

2.      If this quorum is not available until the end of the electoral process, members of the Assembly should be invited to a second meeting during two weeks, provided that the meeting and the election is valid, if voting by 10% of the number of members who have the right to vote.

3.      If the chairman and members of the Council had not been elected in accordance with the preceding provisions, the chairmen and the council should continue perform their roles for a year as an interim council. Members of the general assembly should be invited during this period of electing of the chairman and the council of the syndicate according to the same way and the election should be valid by the quorum stipulated in the previous article.

4.      If there is no chairman before the expiration of his period, he should be replaced by senior deputies or agents, the general assembly should be called for meeting to elect a chairman during the three months from the date of leaving his post, the period of the elected chairman will be deemed as a complementary period for the former chairman.

5.      The Committee supervising elections is entitled to choose days for meeting of the general assembly and the dates should be published in two widespread daily Arabic newspapers.

6.      Elections shall be held according to the law of each union, and the Judicial Council shall be notified to appoint a number of judges to supervise the voting and counting and the announcement of results and the Ministry of Justice shall bear all the expenses.

7.      Every professional association shall form a committee of the non-candidates, this committee shall be responsible for judging all applications, petitions and complaints concerning the names of the candidates.

8.      Boards of all general and subsidiary unions and other trade union organizations have the right to collect funds and accept donations and contributions to the purposes underlying in each union, administrative receivership should not imposed on the professional syndicates or confiscation of its money for any reason.

Impossible conditions in the law No. 100

Trade unions object to Law 100 of 1993 because of its onerous conditions. For example, Article II stipulates a vote of half of the members of the general assembly registered in the tables of syndicate, who have a right to vote for the validity of electing of the chairman and members of the Council. If the quorum is not available, elections should be run again, and the minimum for the validity of the election is votes of the third of all members. If this quorum does not exist, a committee for directing the work shall be appointed in the syndicate under the judicial supervision. The judiciary committee which supervise the union has the right not to call the General Assembly for the elections, which leads to the survival of unions under guard to no end.

Article V of Law 100 also contradicts the Constitution. For this article provides that the meeting of the general assembly for the purposes of elections should be in days rather Fridays and holidays. Applying this Article leads to the reduction of participation in the electoral process, in addition to the high quorum required for the general assembly.

Anther defect of this law is its applying to all professional syndicates despite differences between each one of them. There is a central trade union such as journalists and other unions have branches in the governorates, which create different rules between elections of its boards.

23 professional associations in the grip of the government

There are 23 professional associations In Egypt, consisting of about six million people belonging to the middle class. The crisis of syndicates began in Egypt after the joint meeting in 1990 in the Medical Syndicate. In this meeting, the representatives of the trade unions demand the renunciation of the President of the Republic from the presidency of the National Party, and the abolition of the emergency law and abolition of the restrictions on freedom of the press and freedom of parties, they demand also for running of fair elections.

In 1991, the same unions aroused problem of professional unemployment after the invasion of Kuwait, and the return of many professionals Egyptians.

The State replied to such moves in the trade union by enacting a law to guarantee of democratic unionism No. 100 of 1993, which led to the freezing of many of the unions and disempowering the union work, to the extent that some unions requested support from the State to support the Pension Fund to overcome the fiscal deficit.