Manpower minister defends draft law banning worker protests

The government has not criminalized the right of workers to strike, an Egyptian minister said Tuesday following the proposal of a law that would punish protesters who disrupt work.

Minister of Manpower and Immigration Ahmed Hassan al-Borai said at a press conference that the government seeks to incriminate acts that disrupt work and harm establishments.

A month ago, the Egyptian interim government proposed a draft law that suggests punishing people who organize, call for or participate in protests, strikes or sit-ins that disrupt work in the public and private sectors. Penalties would range from imprisonment to fines as high as LE500,000.

The draft law must be approved by the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces to go into effect.

Al-Borai said that putting work on hold will cause investors to leave the country, which the government wants to avoid because investments could create job opportunities.   

He called on members of trade unions and businessmen to meet next month at the Ministry of Manpower and Immigration to discuss problems faced by workers and their employers.

Several political groups have rejected the draft law, saying it will stand in the way of democracy.

The Youth Revolution Coalition also rejected the proposed law, but it acknowledged that the government needs time to examine the demands of workers, given the current economic circumstances in the country.

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