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Independent Trade Unions in Egypt

Publication date: 
Friday, May 20, 2016

While government ministries in Egypt have historically refused to recognize any unions other than those affiliated with the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), after the revolution of 2011, there were signs that the situation for independent trade unions in Egypt would change.  Some government officials signaled a more liberal embrace of independent unions, workers formed hundreds of unions unaffiliated with ETUF, and the 2014 constitution expressed explicit support for union organizing and collective bargaining.

This spring, however, ETUF reacted to these developments by filing a court case asserting that independent unions are illegal in Egypt.  While the case continues, on March 1 the Ministry of Interior invalidated the use of independent union stamps on official documents. The ILO has determined that the March 1 decree effectively revokes the fundamental right to negotiate and publish collective bargaining agreements, and exposes union leaders to the risk of dismissal or arrest. In an April 8 letter to the president of Egypt, the ILO Director-General called on the recent ban on official recognition of independent unions to be revoked.

The FLA concurs with this assessment, and strongly urges the government to respect ILO conventions on freedom of association (signed by Egypt in the 1950s), as well as the more recent constitution.  The FLA will continue to follow this issue as it develops, and in the meantime urges brands sourcing from Egypt to recommend that their suppliers continue honoring any collective bargaining agreements negotiated in the interim period by independent trade unions.  The complete issue brief appears below.
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