The Shura Council's Human Rights Committee has newly granted legislative powers that it has used to draft new laws regulating protests and strikes. Many of the 26 articles drafted so far have been criticized both by labor and human rights groups.
The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party daily paper has published some of the provisions of the proposed law. The first 18 articles regulate protests and the last 8 put restrictions on the right to strike.
The legislation actually continues repressive legislation that dates back to Law 14 of 1923 when Egypt was a British protectorate. The law criminalized anti-occupation protests. Malek Adly of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights notes:"Most of the provisions of this draft law have been copied verbatim from Law 14. This is evident in the use of terms like 'police,' which has long been replaced by the word 'shorta,' along with other outdated terms."
Adly explains that this anti-protest legislation was later adopted by Egyptian monarchs and military rulers to quell discontent. Now Mursi, the elected president, with a constitution passed by a majority vote, is doing the same. You have the same repression thinly veiled with a democratic veneer.
Before the January uprising that overthrew Mubarak, strikes had been growing. As the appended video shows trade unions played an important part in the revolution. However, strikes and industrial action have risen in number even since the revolution.
The Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU) harshly criticized the law, noting that it added additional control mechanisms that were not even present during the Mubarak regime. Adly believes that these policies are meant to control unrest that could follow from the US $4.8 billion loan from the IMF. Adly claims:"We are heading towards austerity measures, tax hikes, subsidy cuts and [higher] unemployment, which will quite likely prove to be unpopular. This is why the state wants to do away with political rights as well as socio-economic rights. It seeks to strip citizens of their right to object to governmental policie."
There are a number of restrictions on protests. Article 2 requires that authorities must be notified three days prior to a protest. Authorities can refuse permission to hold the protest. Article three requires that the duration, place, and reasons for the protests must be clearly announced in advance.
Article 6 says that protests cannot take place in schools, houses of worship, or state buildings except for lectures and these must be approved by authorities. Article 7 demands that a representative be appointed to each protest action to ensure it does not get out of hand. Article 10 gives authorities the power to designate protest routes
Other articles give security forces authority to disperse any demonstrations regarded as harmful to national interests. Another requires governorates to allocate specific areas for demonstrations that do not obstruct traffic. Article 14 requires that demonstrations occur after 7 a.m. and disperse by 7 p.m. Under these regulations, the demonstrations in Tahrir square would have been illegal and subject to dispersal. No doubt if they happen again, some of the same people who were arrested and jailed under the old regime will now arrest many of those who protested alongside of them. Adly was critical of many of these articles saying that at most some of the provisions would apply only under a state of emergency.
Strikes are also very much regulated. A strike may not halt traffic or disrupt production, or public transport. Article 21 allows strikes within the workplace as long as they do not harm production or the national economy. It is quite often the harm caused to production that is the very reason for strikes since it put pressure on companies to settle. If workers strike, they are not working and that in itself will impact production. As Adly puts it:“How can workers go on strike without halting production? The whole point of a strike is to halt production, and to use this action as a pressure mechanism against the employer."
There are many other regulations hostile to workers. Karim Saber, director of the Land Center for Human Rights said that the Trade Union Liberties draft law of September 2011, has been scrapped and the Brotherhood are now drafting their own laws.
Karam Saber, director of the Land Center for Human Rights, explains that the Brotherhood have scrapped the “Trade Union Liberties” draft law which was finalized in September 2011, and are now drafting their own laws which regulate Egypt’s trade unions and professional syndicates. The International Labor Organizations is threatening to blacklist the Egyptian government as a violator of labor rights, for failing to issue a trade union law protecting worker's rights to freely organize. Will we hear complaints about this from the IMF or from the Obama administration? Will the issue even be covered by mainstream western media?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com