Egyptian protesters thwarted once again

The Egyptian security forces were able to oppose the protests that trade unions called for against the Civil Service Law, deemed unfair to state employees.

al-monitor Staff and workers of Egypt's Ministry of Finance Tax Authority hold a sign which reads, "Distress to President of the Republic, Cancel the Civil Service Law" during a protest in front of the Syndicate of Journalists in Cairo, Aug. 10, 2015. Photo by REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh.

Topics covered

trade union, state institutions, salaries, retirees, reform, protests, civil law, abdel fattah al-sisi

Sep 23, 2015

CAIRO — The civil servants’ uprising against the Civil Service Law has yet to subside. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued this law on March 2 with the aim to replace the employees in the state institutions.

On Sept. 12, the opposition to this law by a number of civil servants and representatives of independent trade unions escalated. The coordination committee of Tadamon (Solidarity) — a movement that includes a number of independent trade unions objecting the law — had announced the expected participation of large numbers of protesters, but the security forces thwarted the protest. Tadamon had issued a statement warning that this might happen 48 hours before the protest.

The secretary-general of the independent Egyptian Teachers Union, Hussein Ibrahim, told Al-Monitor, “Security forces sealed the entrance gates to Fustat Park, where the sit-in was to be held and prevented the protesters from entering. Some citizens objected to our presence in the park, although we did not disrupt traffic. Rather they [citizens] were standing in front of the park gates in the middle of the road, causing traffic problems.”

He said, “The security forces intercepted our colleagues and prevented them from entering the park. The sit-in included more than 300 protesters, but we were expecting thousands."

Hussein added, “The Tadamon movement includes most of the independent trade unions, including the Independent General Union of Real Estate Tax Authority Workers (IGURETA), the teachers union, doctors union, pharmacists union and the order of engineers, as well as a number of federations such as the Egyptian Democratic Labor Congress, the Independent Union of Postal Workers and the Independent Union of the Drinking Water and Sanitation Company. All of the workers in these unions and federations confirmed their participation in the protests; however, security forces prevented them from taking part.”

An IGURETA member told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “We oppose the Civil Service Law due to some of its articles, including the one stating that the periodical increment for state employees is only 5% while the inflation rate exceeds 10%. Hence, the purchasing power of employees decreases as the increase of salaries is less that the rising inflation. The law fixed the value of incentives and bonuses earned by the employee, which used to be set as a percentage of the salary. This value is now a fixed amount and the value of the incentives obtained by workers is reduced.”

Ashraf al-Araby, the minister of planning, defended the draft civil service law in a press release on Oct. 12, 2014, and believes it achieves justice in wages and represents a first step toward administrative reform in the government apparatus. According to Araby, the administrative reform axes will include legislative reform of the state administrative system through a new civil service law aimed at advancing the civil service system, raising the competence of workers in the state administration, building and developing the capacity of workers in the administrative authority units, reforming the payroll and reconsidering the functional positions.

On Aug. 10, Araby said that the Civil Service Law excludes cronyism in filling public positions, which are filled following a centralized competition announced by the Central Agency for Organization and Administration, and supervised by the minister.

Ibrahim said, “The law allows for corruption by state employees, since according to Article 64, the employee whose service is terminated for violations undermining one of the state treasury rights may be subject to a fine not exceeding 10 folds of the wage received during the last month of service.”

The IGURETA member indicated that the law makes it easier for the authority to dismiss employees. He said, “According to Article 27 of the law, the human resource administration may transfer the employee who obtains two consecutive weak performance reports to another position for a period of not more than one year. If following this period it appears that this employee lacks competence to perform his job, the administration may propose the dismissal of said employee who reserves the right to obtain a pension.”

Araby pointed out that the law does not provide for arbitrary dismissal of employees as alleged, by explaining that the former Law No. 47 governing civil servants specified for the dismissal of the employee with two weak performance reports after two years of service. To the contrary, the Civil Service Law gives greater opportunities for reforming the situation of civil servants.

On the other hand, human rights activist, lawyer and head of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights Khalid Ali told Al-Monitor that Article 67 of the law allows employees above the age of 50 — who have been in service for more than a year and have contributed to the social security system for more than 20 years — to request early retirement. These employees shall be entitled to receive a pension on the basis of the duration of their contribution to the social security system, plus five years.

According to Ali, the article also states that employees older than 50 shall be entitled to social insurance rights plus the period remaining for reaching the legal retirement age, which means depriving insurance funds of the contributions due by the government and the employee for up to five years, while these funds will be requiring to pay pensions as if the government and the employee have settled contributions.

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