Human Rights Watch (HRW) have called for the release of at least 26 Egyptian workers who have been arrested and charged in connection with peaceful strikes and protests.
Since May 2016 police have arrested workers across a variety of industries for striking; they have summoned them for investigation, disappeared workers, raided their homes, and accused them of belonging to unidentified banned groups. Some have been tried before military courts on the charge of inciting strikes.
Egyptian authorities restrict the ability of workers to mobilise independently and criminalise strikes and workplace sit-ins through the penal code, punishable by up to two years in prison.
Not only is the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) government-controlled but authorities have never legalised independent labour unions which emerged from the 2011 uprising and instead imposes prison sentences for establishing unions that don’t follow the law.
According the HRW, the Egyptian constitution grants freedom of association and the right to strike and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Egypt is a party, establishes the right to strike, form and join trade unions and confederations.
Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Arresting workers for striking is another example of how Egyptian authorities are determined to stifle all space for peaceful mobilisation… instead of arresting and prosecuting workers, the government should amend its laws to guarantee workers’ rights to effective bargaining and mobilisation which are essential to effective economic reform.”