Egypt: ‘New constitution favours the powerful’ say union activists

Egyptians will begin voting in a controversial referendum on the draft of a new constitution on 15 December. Voting will take place in two rounds, with around half the country voting on 15 December and the other half on 22 December.

The Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions has been supporting the protests against the constitution which have brought hundreds of thousands into the streets over the past few weeks. Mohammed Hardan from the Cairo Water Company Workers’ Union told MENA Solidarity Network “My union, with the other independent unions, has been taking part collectively in the protests through the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions. We’ve been in the sit-in in Tahrir Square from the first day against Constitutional Declaration.”

President Mohamed Morsi’s withdrawal of the first Constitutional Declaration last weekend, and his announcement of a new declaration hasn’t satisfied union activists like Mohamed. “The second declaration didn’t offer anything new, and was just designed to disperse the opposition. But I think we’ve won support among workers and the general public, particularly after the government decided to raise the price of some goods without taking low wages and unemployment into account.”
Meanwhile the ‘yes campaign’, which is backed by the ruling Muslim Brotherhood, has been boosted by slick advertising campaigns by the Constituent Assembly, promoting the draft constitution. In the video produced by activist film-makers collective Mosireen above, Fatma Ramadan from EFITU’s Strike Committee unpicks the propaganda. “This constitution is biased in favour of the rich against the poor” she says, “it is in favour of the powerful against the powerless and the rulers against the ruled.”

Activists from a wide range of political groups have hit the streets and workplaces over the last few days to spread the message for a ‘No’ vote. The Revolutionary Socialists in Port Said took their campaign to the city’s Investment Zone, home to dozens of factories employing tens of thousands of workers. Key worries for activists in the workers’ movement include the fact that the constitution links pay rates to production, not to prices, allows the courts to dissolve unions, and essentially makes it almost impossible to organise a legal strike.

RS_port_said_workersWhat you can do:

  • Rush messages of solidarity to the Egyptian independent unions via EFITU (efitu.union@hotmail.com – please copy to menasolidarity@gmail.com)
  • Use this sign to take a picture message of solidarity with the aims of the revolution – you can send the pictures to us via Facebook, email or Twitter (@menasolidarity) and we will forward to colleagues in Egypt:
  • See our solidarity toolkit for signs you can print out in support of Egyptian workers’ right to strike and organise independent unions

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