Egypt: Domestic workers create their first trade union

Photo: EACPE

Officially registered with the Ministry of Manpower earlier this month, Egypt’s first labor union of domestic workers is the result of an initiative by the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement (EACPE, focal point of Social Watch in that country), which launched a project to protect them last year.

Abdel-Moneim Mansour, director of the project and one of the founders of the union, told Ahram Online news portal that EACPE started in 2010 a study of the domestic work in four Egyptian governorates (Cairo, Alexandria, Beheira, and Kafr El-Sheikh) along with local NGOs.

“The syndicate has now 300 members, and we expect 2,000 by the end of this year,” said Mansour. The monthly subscription costs 0.8 US dollars per affiliate.

The union will propose rules to regulate the relationship between workers and their employers. These texts will be handed over to the next parliament, to be included in Egypt’s labour law.

“The Ministry of Labour rejected the name ‘syndicate of domestic workers’, so we have changed it to ‘syndicate of monthly-paid workers,’” Mansour told Ahram Online.

Kamal Abbas, general co-ordinator for the Centre for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS), said that launching the syndicate is a good start to protect marginalized categories of employees.

“It’s difficult to work out the exact number of maids as they work in different places,” Abbas told Ahram Online.

In June 2011, the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) adopted a global convention on domestic work, and it has since been ratified by Uruguay and Philippines.

“We will call on the government to join this convention,” Mansour said.

Recent ILO estimates based on national surveys censuses in 117 countries place the global number of domestic workers at around 53 million. However, with many workers unregistered, experts believe that the total number could be as high as 100 million.

In developing countries, domestic workers make up around 4 to 12 per cent of wage employment. Around 83 per cent of these workers are women or girls, and many are migrant workers.

More information
Historic ILO’s convention on domestic workers:
Social Watch urges governments to ratify convention 189:

Al Ahram: