As Egypt operates under immense uncertainty following two weeks of deadly anti-government protests, trade unionists around the world are joining a Day of Action for Democracy on 8 February.
EI is supporting the initiative, which was proposed by the International Trade Union Congress (ITUC), by asking affiliates to join planned demonstrations at Egyptian embassies in opposition to violent repression of workers and citizens in Egypt. EI encourages all affiliates to continue to press their governments for a democratic transition in Egypt that includes social justice and full respect for freedom of expression and association, collective bargaining and core labour standards, as well as ensuring that those responsible for the violence against peaceful demonstrations are brought to justice. Protestors continue to occupy Tahrir Square in Cairo, saying they will leave only when President Hosni Mubarak stands down. Some protesters have been in face-offs with soldiers, but with the army instructed not to use force, the situation is in deadlock. As the crisis enters its third week, banks have reopened, but schools remain closed and children are missing classes. It remains unclear whether calls for Egyptians to return to normal life will put more pressure on the government or the protesters. The only certainty is that Egypt is highly unlikely to go back to what it was like before the uprising began. Workers' issues and equal opportunities are central to the protests in Egypt. ITUC General Secretary, Sharan Burrow, has insisted that Egyptian leaders must: “listen attentively and sincerely to the voices of the people,” and their demands to be provided “decent jobs and good opportunities to maintain a decent living.” Amid calls for freedom and democracy, the Independent Teachers Union of Egypt has requested better educational levels, employment opportunities and adequate standards of living. EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, said: “We have been heartened that the independent trade unions in Egypt – so long repressed by Mubarak – have just announced the formation of a new independent national trade union centre. Giving people a democratic vehicle to call for genuine democratic change and respect for human rights, is particularly vital in what is likely to be a volatile period ahead.” Talks between the Egyptian government and opposition groups to tackle the country's political crisis have so far failed to end the protests which have paralysed the country and left some 300 people dead. The government is reported to have offered some concessions, but opposition groups state these are inadequate, amid scepticism of the government's motives. Some opposition groups are demanding that President Mubarak resigns, for parliament to be dissolved, for emergency laws to be lifted and for all political prisoners to be released. President Mubarak has so far refused to resign, saying that to do so would cause chaos. Instead, he has promised not to stand for re-election in September. EI will join meetings in Brussels to express its solidarity with the Egyptian people who share the common aspirations to quality education and decent employment; and fundamental freedoms and rights. EI will also condemn the killing of innocent men and women, reiterate its call for an impartial investigation into the violence, and demand that those responsible are held accountable and brought to justice. Please contact National Centres affiliated to the ITUC in your country to for details on the schedule of activities and do not forget to inform EI of your plans and outcomes, email: [email protected] or fax +32 2 224 0606.