Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is turning against the unions that have helped put him in power. The state has set its sights on the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (Al-Ittihad al-Masri lil-Naqabat al-Mustaqilla, EFITU), which operates as a large umbrella of non-governmental labor unions, notes analyst Giuseppe Acconcia. It is looking to bring these independent unions back under the umbrella of the government-run labor union syndicate, the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (Al-Ittihad al-‘Aam li-Naqabat ‘Ummal Masr, ETUF), and downsize workers’ expectations for better labor rights more generally. If the protests organized by the youth, the Islamists, and the Egyptian civil society have been eliminated by the current state repression of oppositional movements, strikes and labor protests are still a matter of concern for the Egyptian authorities, he writes for Carnegie’s Sada Journal:
Despite the crackdown on the Islamists, arrests and threats to secular activists, disillusionment of the youth, and tightening space for NGOs, the EFITU is still working, organizing strikes and labor protests under the strict supervision of the state. However, increased governmental control is hindering the independence of those trade unions, transforming their activities from anti-regime workers’ movements to NGOs defending labor rights and maintaining an almost irrelevant difference with more governmental organizations. Despite the lack of space for dissent in Egypt’s military regime, unionized workers, together with left-wing and secular activists, continue their efforts—even if clandestinely—to build-up a new anti-regime movement in the spirit of the “social soul” of the 2011 uprisings.