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Between Arbitrary Dismissals and Security Intimidation: CFJ bulletin highlights the Labor situation in Egypt during July and August 2023

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The Committee for Justice (CFJ) has issued a bulletin on the labor conditions in Egypt and the violations against workers in various sectors during the months of July and August 2023.

The report highlighted the intermittent strikes by journalists at the BBC office in Cairo, protesting against wage discrimination compared to foreign journalists working in the same office and other radio offices in the Middle East. In response, journalists organized a one-day strike in June 2023, followed by a 3-day strike in July and a 10-day strike from August 20 to 30.

Additionally, workers at the Iron and Steel Company staged multiple protests, with the latest one on August 22. The protesting workers, who were pensioned, expressed their objection to being deprived of their rights in the Fellowship Fund. Despite the fund regulations allowing a maximum disbursement of 140 months upon reaching the retirement age, hundreds of workers pensioned since 2018 were unable to receive their financial entitlements.

By the end of August 2023, dozens of workers at the Kom Ombo Sugar Factory in Aswan initiated an open-ended strike demanding salary increases. Shortly thereafter, workers at another factory owned by the same employers, the Sugar for Integrated Industries Company, including the Armant Sugar Company in Luxor, joined the strike for similar reasons.

The report also covered the arbitrary dismissal case, noting the final ruling on July 9 by the Supreme Administrative Court supporting the arbitrary dismissal of an employee at the National Media Authority “Maspero” on charges of “homosexuality.” The court based its decision on a video clip of the employee obtained illegally as the sole evidence in the case, despite the State Commissioners’ recommendation to annul the initial dismissal ruling due to the lack of legal evidence.

Regarding the incidents of threats and security intimidation, the report documented the executive head of the Adult Education General Authority, Mohamed Yahia Nasif, threatening members of the committee’s board by reporting them to the national security and fabricating malicious charges that could lead to their imprisonment. This occurred during a meeting held on August 14 to discuss the committee’s demands.

Throughout the months of July and August, Egyptian cargo trucks piled up on both sides of the land border crossings of Qustul and Arqin between Egypt and Sudan. These trucks awaited passage into Sudanese territory, which has been embroiled in civil war since April 2023. Despite carrying shipments containing food and cement, the trucks, driven by at least 4,000 drivers, remained stranded at the border crossings without response to their pleas for food and water, exacerbated by intense heat. Regrettably, this situation resulted in the loss of 15 drivers’ lives, with others in critical conditions being transported to Aswan hospitals due to illness and elevated temperatures.

The Egyptian Ministry of Labor also fell short in resolving the issue of workers at Rooya Contracting Company. These workers collectively filed a complaint expressing their grievances about the non-disbursement of the annual increase prescribed for them for the past four years, the cessation of annual profits for five years, withdrawal of medical insurance cards, and the withholding of cost-of-living allowances since 2018. Despite the challenging working conditions lacking the minimum occupational safety requirements in the construction projects undertaken by the company in mountainous desert regions, where protection from extreme heat is inadequate, and potable water is unavailable.

This briefing is part of the Labor Justice project, through which CFJ aims to raise local and international awareness about the labor rights situation in Egypt. The project seeks to explore ways to achieve justice for workers by monitoring labor market violations in Egypt and highlighting the dynamics of local laws and policies impacting workers’ rights in accordance with international human rights principles and conventions.

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