Cablegate: Egypt's Independent Trade Union Flexes Muscle
DE RUEHEG #1578 2251400
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 131400Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3430
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 001578
DRL/ILCSR FOR DANG
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/13/2029
TAGS: ELAB PGOV PHUM KDEM EG
SUBJECT: EGYPT'S INDEPENDENT TRADE UNION FLEXES MUSCLE
REF: CAIRO 685
Classified By: Economic-Political Minister-Counselor Donald A. Blome for reasons 1.4 (d).
1. (SBU) On August 11, the Real Estate Tax Collector's Union (RETU), Egypt's only independent trade union, held a one day strike to protest a decision by the Ministry of Finance (MoF), the employer of RETU's 35,000 members, to give a rival state-controlled union responsibility for RETU members' pensions. RETU leadership viewed the MoF decision as an attempt to weaken the union and accused the MoF of bowing to pressure from the Egyptian Trade Union Federation, a GoE-controlled trade union umbrella organization, that by law, all Egyptian unions are required to join.
2. (SBU) In conjunction with the work stoppage, RETU members demonstrated in front of the downtown Cairo office of Egypt's Prime Minister. On August 11, we saw several hundred protesters from RETU demonstrating peacefully, while several hundred riot police stood by. There were no reports of violence. The demonstration ended when RETU suspended the strike and announced its intention to continue negotiations with the MoF.
3. (C) Comment: RETU, formed in December 2008, has generally operated with little GoE interference and has been able to work cooperatively with the MoF. (ref A) Egyptian labor activists view RETU's existence as an important development for the Egyptian labor movement and are concerned that the MoF's recent decision may be the first step in a GoE effort to bring RETU under state control. The GoE, however, appears increasingly sensitive to International Labor Organization (ILO) criticism of Egypt's compliance record under the ILO Freedom of Association and Right to Organize Convention. It is unlikely to take any harsh action against RETU that would invite further criticism. SCOBEY