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The Committee for International Labour Standards, a committee of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), has said that Egypt will no longer be included in its list of countries violating international labour conventions and recommendations, known as the blacklist, reports weekly.ahram.org.eg.
At a session held in Geneva earlier this week, the committee agreed to lift Egypt from the list following promises from the Egyptian government to approve the long-awaited law on trade union freedoms after a new parliament is elected.
Minister of Manpower Nahed Al-Ashri said in a press statement on Saturday that Egypt respected international labour agreements and recommendations. The Minister explained that Egypt had sent a delegation to the ILO representing the Ministry of Manpower, the Egyptian Trade Union Federation, and the Union of Chambers of Commerce.
The delegation held several meetings with officials at the ILO, explaining to the committee that the law on trade union freedoms, one of the reasons for Egypt appearing on the blacklist, would be discussed again following the parliamentary elections.
Mr Al-Ashri added: “The committee was satisfied with the measures Egypt has taken after two revolutions to ensure that its laws are along the lines of the international standards of the ILO.”
Gebali Al-Meraghi, Chair of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation, said that the delegation had succeeded in showing that labour enjoyed real freedoms and democracy: “They lifted Egypt’s name from the list of countries kept under observation, or as some like to call it on the blacklist, because Egypt does not violate workers’ legitimate rights or any international labour conventions.”
However, Fatma Ramadan, a labour activist and member of the executive office of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions, accused the government of leading a conspiracy against Egyptian workers: “The reasons behind putting Egypt on the ILO’s blacklist in the first place haven’t changed.”
Ms Ramadan said Egypt had been blacklisted by the ILO for failing to meet international standards on independent syndicates and trade union freedoms: “Workers now face many restrictions before they can start any action or protest to demand their rights. In addition to the law criminalising strikes and sit-ins, there is also the law banning demonstrations that was issued this year.”
The draft law that regulates the formation of workers’ associations has been repeatedly postponed. This law, approved by the cabinet in 2011, was not ratified by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), in charge of the country at the time.
“Now we will have to wait until the new members of parliament are elected to endorse it. Meanwhile, the cabinet has approved a number of controversial laws, such as the law banning any challenges to state contracts,” she added.
Ms Ramadan also said that the number of workers who had been unjustifiably laid off had been increasing in an alarming way.
A recent paper by NGO the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), showed that there were 354 protests in the first quarter of 2014, of which 249 were industrial actions.
The paper said that workers’ living conditions had worsened as a result of a decline in wages strained by high inflation rates and soaring prices, in addition to the unfair implementation of the monthly minimum wage of EGP 1,200 (USD 167), which came into force this year.
“I don’t know what changes the ILO experts have detected in the current situation that have made them change their minds and remove Egypt from the blacklist,” Ms Ramadan concluded.