Two leading activists in the Egyptian Property Tax Collectors’ Union recorded these messages to PCS members in the UK.
My name is Nagat Ragab Mohammed from the Property Tax Collectors Union. I am deputy president of the union in Giza and a member of the national executive. I am also deputy president of the Women’s Committee at the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions.
[Question] Can you say a little about your experience in building the union?
Our experience in founding the first independent union for Property Tax Collectors which was the first union to appear under the old regime before the revolution. We faced severe difficulties under the old regime but we overcame these challenges in order to found an independent union outside the control of the official trade union federation. We decided to set up an independent union because the official federation had no interest at all in workers’ demands. We set up a union for the Property Tax Collectors despite all of these difficulties and with God’s help we were able to start our union work.
We won the biggest wage rise possible for our members. We also won more than half of our demands and our union recruited huge numbers of members. Out of 47,000 workers in the Property Tax Authority, 40,000 joined us. This was a great success for our union and proved that the independent unions were standing up for workers. That’s why all the workers joined the independent union in the Property Tax Authority. And why they are supporting the Independent Union Federation.
[Question] What are the challenges you are facing now?
Of course there are a lot of general challenges as we are travelling along the road of revolution. But we are working to overcome these as far as we can with the resources we have. We are still a new union and we’re trying to train our activists and members and that is perhaps the obstacle we face at the moment. But we will hopefully overcome this problem. We’re also working on collecting union subs and to increase our subs base so that we can be more active in supporting our members.
[Question] Do you have any questions for colleagues in the UK?
I do have a question for colleagues in the Property Tax Collectors’ Union there. Do women have fulfilling roles to play in the trade unions in Britain?
My name is Nahla Mohammed Abd-al-Azim from the Property Tax Collectors Union which was the first union to appear in Egypt under the old regime. It was founded in early 2009. I am one of the founding members of the union and a member of the executive committee of the union in Daqahiliya governorate.
I’d like to ask colleagues in the Property Tax Collectors’ Union in Britain about the number of women trade unionists. I’d really like to know about this Are the numbers of women similar to men? In Egypt we’ve begun, thank God, to see good representation of women in the unions. Before it was quite weak. This wasn’t really a problem with the government as such but there was also problem among women because they were afraid to take this step and get involved. I was myself nervous about getting involved with the union at first. After I joined I realised that this was just ordinary work – just trade union work. Being in the union is one thing and getting involved in politics is something different. I started taking on responsibilities and now I’m president of the Women’s Committee in the Independent Union Federation. I hope that all women trade unionists in Egypt will take on responsible positions and I hope there will be co-operation with our women colleagues in the trade unions in Britain. Co-operation as union activists. And that we’ll exchange experiences. I hope that my women colleagues in Britain will be successful in winning good positions in the unions, and that we will too.