Egypt: Independent teachers’ union fights for rights

published 8 July 2011 updated 13 July 2011

The independent teachers’ union in Egypt is fighting for the enactment of legislation to ensure trade union rights. EI’s member, the Independent Teachers Union of Egypt – which was founded July 2010 before the revolution – is part of the new Independent Trade Union Federation.

Last month, two supply – or contract – teachers were arrested by the military who were brought in to break up a sit-in of teachers who were demanding permanent contracts. The peaceful sit-in was harassed by security forces who surrounded it and fired shots in their direction.

Some of the supply teachers have been on temporary contracts for 20 years. Many teachers know that the use of contract teachers on low wages with no security of tenure is one of the main ways in which governments attempt to destroy teacher unions, save money and in the process undermine education.

The Egyptian government has yet to enact a decree from 2 March 2011 which said that teachers on temporary contracts should be made permanent once they have been in post for three years. EI’s member organisation is also advocating for a wage increase of 25%. “A junior teacher currently receives the equivalent of 15 USD, 50 USD after five years of teaching,” says Ayman Albaili of the Independent Teachers Union of Egypt (ISTT). “The previous regime considered education as a commodity which parents could afford or not. The role of teachers was marginalised in the decision making process on education. Our union wants to reassert teachers in the education process and improve their status and rights,” he adds.

The Independent Trade Union Federation is calling for international solidarity in its fight for basic labour rights, for example the decriminalisation of strikes and demonstrations. It is also calling for an end to foreign funding and interference.

One of the founders of the federation, Kamal Abu Aita – of the tax authority union, said: “Sometimes when people talk about international solidarity they focus on trade unionists in countries like Egypt receiving training from colleagues in the developed world. I think that training can be useful, but I prefer to call it an exchange of experiences, rather than training. Solidarity is a conversation and we can all learn from each other.”

EI supports this statement as model of global solidarity and aims for this in its work with members.

Read an interview with Kamal Abu Aita at: http://menasolidaritynetwork.com/2011/07/06/egypt-solidarity-is-a-conversation-interview-with-kamal-abu-aita/

EI convened a meeting of independent Arab country trade unions with the goal of furthering the call of independent and democratic trade unionism in the region. Delegates from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia and Yemen came together at the conference. The inability of the Bahraini teachers’ union to take part – because their leaders are detained in jail – was deplored by delegates. To read a report of this meeting please visit: http://www.ei-ie.org/en/news/news_details/1850