Cablegate: Egypt's Government-Backed Union Leader On Strikes,
PP RUEHHM RUEHJO RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #2380/01 3621501
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 281501Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4569
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 002380
DEPARTMENT FOR DRL/ILCSR
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/28/2029
TAGS: ELAB PGOV PHUM SOCI EG
SUBJECT: EGYPT'S GOVERNMENT-BACKED UNION LEADER ON STRIKES,
REF: A. CAIRO 684 B. CAIRO 1547 Classified By: Economic-Political Minister-Counselor Donald A. Blome for reason 1.4 (d).
1. Key points: -- (SBU) On December 22, we met with XXXXXXXXXXXX a GoE-controlled trade union umbrella organization. XXXXXXXXXXXX one of 23 ETUF-member unions, also participated in the meeting. -- (C) According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, XXXXXXXXXXXX does not oppose strikes, which he believes are necessary in some cases, takes no action to suppress them, and regrets that it does not have financial resources to support striking workers. -- (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX said Egyptian labor activism is focused on economics and workers lose interest when "outsiders" attempt to politicize strikes. -- (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX adamantly opposes the independent Real Estate Tax Collectors Union (ref A), which refuses to join XXXXXXXXXXXX, because it is an "illegal" organization.
2. (C) Comment: As Egypt's workers continue to strike and demonstrate for higher wages and improved working conditions, with little support from ETUF or ETUF-member unions, XXXXXXXXXXXX, a member of parliament from Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and chairman of the People's Assembly Manpower Committee, appears concerned that ETUF has become irrelevant. Throughout the meeting, XXXXXXXXXXXX referred nostalgically to a time when U.S. and international trade union organizations engaged with and supported ETUF's activities, support that Mugawer complained ETUF no longer receives. XXXXXXXXXXXX may be trying to mirror recent NDP efforts to highlight its role as a "service provider." ETUF, however, is seen by many Egyptian labor activists as a tool for the GoE to control organized labor and it is unlikely that ETUF - even if it could offer something tangible to workers - can play a credible role in the workers' rights movement. End comment. --------------------------- ETUF Not Opposed to Strikes ---------------------------
3. (C) According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, ETUF does not oppose or interfere in labor strikes and protests, which XXXXXXXXXXXX said are "sometimes necessary," citing the recently concluded strike at Tanta Flax and Spinning as an example of a an unavoidable strike driven by a factory owner's intransigence (ref B). XXXXXXXXXXXX lamented that ETUF does not have the financial means to assist striking workers.
4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX said that strikes and protests are driven by economics, not politics, and workers lose interest when "outsiders" attempt to introduce politics. XXXXXXXXXXXX said Egyptian strikes occur primarily in sectors such as textiles that face stiff international competition, rather that "profitable," industries like oil and gas or telecommunications. XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed that unsuccessful attempts in early December to organize a strike at Mahalla Spinning and Weaving, a large GoE-owned textile plant, were driven by political activists, not workers. On reports that Mustapha Fouda, a Mahalla labor leader, was fired for his role in organizing the aborted strike, XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed that Fouda was not a worker, but a political activist. (Note: XXXXXXXXXXXX told us separately that Fouda was, until his recent dismissal, a Mahalla Spinning and weaving employee and had worked at the factory since 1984. End note.) -------------------------------- Independent Tax Collectors Union --------------------------------
5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX said that ETUF will soon announce the formation of a 24th ETUF-member union, one to represent real estate tax collectors who formed RETU in December 2008. Mugawer labeled RETU president Kamal Abu Eita a political opportunist brought in by RETU's "real leadership," to serve as the public face of the independent union. Mugawer claimed that "most" RETU members and leaders have lost confidence in CAIRO 00002380 002 OF 002 Abu Eita and will join the new ETUF-member union. When asked why ETUF opposes RETU's existence, XXXXXXXXXXXX only response was that Egyptian law requires all unions to join ETUF, and, therefore, RETU was acting illegally. Scobey