Capital: Cairo
Population: 89.58m. (2014 est.)

The Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) was established in 1957. It is the largest trade union centre in the Arab world, and throughout most of its existence the ETUF enjoyed a legally prescribed monopoly single trade union structure, under which all unions were required to belong to it. From 2006 there was an increase in labour militancy outside the ETUF, including the formation of organised unions, and a number of substantial strikes and demonstrations, such as those at Ghazl al-Mahalla, the state-owned Misr Spinning and Weaving Company, employing more than 25,000 workers in the Nile delta city of al-Mahallah al-Kubra, and those by tax authority workers who went on to found the Independent General Union for Real Estate Tax Authority Workers (RETA), the first independent union to secure tacit recognition from the state in 2009, following coordinated campaigns in support of the union by the international trade union movement. Over this period, however, the work of indepedent labour activists was subjected to regular bursts of repression, with leaders arrested, strikes repressed, and labour NGOs harassed.

During the 'Arab Spring' protests of February 2011 the RETA and other independent unions were among those demonstrators who gathered in Tahrir Square, declaring the foundation of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Unions (EFITU), which called for a general strike to increase the pressure on Mubarak’s regime to resign. After the success of these protests, both the independent unions and the old ETUF were unhappy with the electorial victory of the Islamists, and joined protests against President Mohamed Morsi. These second protests, resulting in a military-coup, ultimately allowed old regime powers to regain control of Egypt, since when the situation for trade union rights has, if anything, deteriorated: in March 2016 the new government declared that all independent trade unions in Egypt were invalidated, strictly applying the law from 1976 on trade union monopoly. That year, a young Italian academic, visiting the country to research its trade union movement, ‘disappeared’, and was tortured and murdered, apparently by the Egyptian secret police

The Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), also known as the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU), for decades held a legal monopoly as the only permitted national trade union centre. Internationally, it is affiliated to the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) and to the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (ICATU). Independent unions are organised in the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Union (EFITU) and Egyptian Democratic Labour Congress (EDLC). There are no affiliates of the ITUC.

Full details of the country's political history, the development of trade unionism, and contact and affiliation details for all national trade union centres can be found in ICTUR's in-depth global reference book: Trade Unions of the World.

Link to reportFull country profile: Egypt, from Trade Unions of the World (2016)

Link to letterIntervention letter: arrests and harassment of trade unionists (2017)

Link to letterIntervention letter: arrest and prosecution of strikers (2917)

Link to reportIUR journal: 'Trade unions and democracy in Egypt', Daniel Blackburn (2018)



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