Law no. 213 is still an issue for independent unions in Egypt

Rahma Refaat is project director of the independent Center for Trade Union and Worker Services in Egypt.

Read her full speech:


We are very concerned about the draconian conditions imposed by the Trade Union Organizations Law N. 213 for the year 2017 and the oppressive practices that accompany its application since the end of 2017.

We welcome the Cabinet of Ministers’ decision to adopt a proposed bill that includes important amendments - granting it is approving by the Parliament-.  However, we affirm that this is not sufficient to correct the flaws of Law no. 213 for 2017 and the shortcomings it includes.


Rahma Refaat is project director of the independent Center for Trade Union and Worker Services in Egypt

ILC 2019 - Rahma Refaat speaks on the situation of Egypt

Despite being a long awaited step towards enshrining the right of independent unions to organize, the trade unions law (213/2017) has instead come to stifle this right imposing the same patterns of government control and threating the existence of strong independent unions in Egypt.

The new law transgress on the mandate of the unions’ general assemblies and the right of its members in drafting their statutes themselves. We find it specifying –for example- the duration of the union circuit and the number of executive committee members as well as the conditions of holding elections that take place in one day in all the work places, and the ministry of man power plays a direct supervisory role.


The independent trade unions continue to make genuine efforts towards regulating their status based on the new law and its provisions, and within the allocated time required to do so. Attempts to regulate the unions’ legal status have been marred by repressive practices in violation of the law itself. The government has forbidden the regularization of many independent committees (for example; Real Estate Tax Authority General Union, Trade Union Committee of Workers in Egypt Telecom and Trade Union of Workers in the Bibliotheca Alexandria). disapproved the establishment of most of the independent unions created after the passing of the law (for example; Trade Union Committee of Workers in Alexandria Company for Garment., Trade Union Committee of Workers in Leoni Company, and General Union for Workers in Ambulance Institution and Hospitals) as well as rejected the statutes put forward by unions and forced their members to replace them with ‘guidelines’ issued by the Ministry of Manpower.–

Accordingly, the situation of many trade union organizations remains unsettled; their regularization or registration has been disapproved despite meeting the law conditions and submitting all required documents. Most of these unions are facing reoccurring pressure from different governmental bodies to join the governmental trade unions federation (ETUF).

The Ministry of Manpower oppresses the fundamental right of the unions' general assemblies to settle their matters and elect their representatives freely. Governmental bodies intervened in several instances to prevent the unions general assemblies' from convening, and in case of their meeting, the Manpower Ministry refused to recognize the general assemblies' decisions- no matter whether the concern is electing the executive councils or decisions on other issues. As a result, statuses of many union organizations have been suspended (for example; Trade Union Committee for Damietta Fishers, Trade Union Committee of workers in Suez Canal Clubs and Trade Union Committee for Transportation Services in Qaluobia).

Actually, throughout the last 6 months, 29 organizations make every effort to negotiate with the government; they discourse with the Manpower Ministry, submit to it their petitions. Address, and appeal to different governmental parts [Cabinet, Ministry of Investment and Ministry of Trade and Industry…]. Nevertheless they haven’t met except hard intention to adopt the same course.


The trade union elections took place in 2018 under the new Trade Union Law 213/2017. Nevertheless, it is hard to assert that this process refers to real elections. Actually, the process of voting was preceded by the disqualification of thousands of non-grata candidates on the hands of various parties controlling the elections. Flagrant injustice affected the right of applying for candidacy besides interferences to deviate the will of voters who were compelled to choose between the only remaining candidates after the campaign of massive elimination from the electoral lists; moreover, in some cases elections didn’t even occur when the number of continuing candidates was sufficient to form an uncontested board.