Peaceful strike should not be punishable offence: Supreme Administrative Court

Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court ruled on Saturday that peaceful strikes over work complaints are not punishable offence, even in the absence of a legislative law regulating the action(s), as long as the demands of the strike are legitimate and represent the rights of workers.

The court ruling voided an administrative sanction against 17 post office workers in the Nile Delta governorate of Monoufeya, who faced punitive measures for holding a strike from February 23 to February 27 in 2014 over pay concerns.

The ruling stipulated that “the right to strike for public sector workers is enshrined within Article 15 of the Constitution,” noting that legislators have failed to include it in the civil service law.

The government employees were fired from their jobs following a court verdict issued in January 2015 that claimed they had failed to fulfill the demands of their public sector jobs.

“This right was not abused by the employees. It was proven that the strike was partial, not full, and work at the office was not disrupted,” the court said, adding that there was no reason to subject the workers to disciplinary action.

The judges criticized the legislature for not issuing regulations to organize the right to strike for civil servants, adding that that the plaintiffs in the case used their legal right to strike to demand increases in allowances and bonuses.

The court advised the legislature to issue clear regulations for strike actions under the 2016 civil service law, which covers large sections of government employees, given that the current labor law guarantees the right to strike over work-related complaints.

The court further suggested five principles to regulate rulings on the right to strike for public sector employees in the absence of an official legislation. First, the demands must be considered legitimate and relevant to the job performed by the employees, yet non-political.

Second, employees can only strike after resorting to all other formal communication channels such as submitting complaints and discussing them.

Third, the relevant administration should be notified of the strike’s intention in advance.

Fourth, administration should be given enough time to respond to the demands, and finally, other options should be provided for urgent matters relating to their work, so that citizens’ interests are not hindered.

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