Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1280, (28 January - 3 February 2016)
Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Issue 1280, (28 January - 3 February 2016)

Ahram Weekly

A future for the law?

What will be the fate of the controversial new Civil Service Law after its rejection by parliament, asks Mona El-Fiqi

Al-Ahram Weekly

Last week, the House of Representatives, Egypt’s parliament, rejected new Civil Service Law No 15/2015. Those members who voted against the law numbered 332, out of a total of 468.

The law regulates the recruitment, salaries, pensions, holidays and bonuses of Egypt’s 6.4 million public-sector employees, and was introduced by the government as part of efforts to reform the country’s administrative bodies.

Due to the absence of a parliament, the new law was ratified by presidential decree in March 2015 and was enforced in July 2015. But last week the newly elected parliament rejected the law for many reasons, the most important of which, according to sources, is that it is unconstitutional because it does not treat public servants in different organisations equally.

A detailed report on the reasons the parliament rejected the law should be submitted to the government soon. The rejection of the law has raised concerns among public-sector employees that they might not be paid January’s salaries on time.

Their fears stem from the fact that the overturning of the new law means that its application ended on 20 January and law No 47/1978 is now back in effect. The ambiguity of the situation might mean a delay in the payment of salaries.

The cabinet issued a press statement on Friday refuting rumours that salaries would be delayed as a result of parliament’s rejection of the law. Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said that January’s salaries for public employees will be paid on time and will not be negatively affected by the cancellation of the new law.

The salaries will be paid and if employees still have dues these will be settled the following month, according to Ismail. To avoid negative impacts from the cancellation of the new law, a committee has been formed by the ministers of planning and finance.

Ismail said the cabinet appreciates the role of parliament in studying and discussing new laws and said there should be greater links between the government and the parliament for the benefit of all citizens.

In a speech on Saturday, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi confirmed that the law targeted reform. “I cannot interfere in the parliament’s work, [but] the law is seeking reform. The issue requires intensive study,” Al-Sisi said.

He defended the law because it did not reduce the number of employees or their salaries. Egypt is suffering under the burden of a huge number of employees in the governmental sector, Al-Sisi said, since there are seven million employees in the sector while the country only requires one million. The government will not, however, overlook the needs of the remaining six million, he said.

The government believes the law is important for reforming the country’s administrative structure, Hossam Kaweesh, the cabinet spokesman, said. He added that the government will resubmit the civil service law to the parliament after making amendments to it.

It is waiting for an official report from the parliament to explain the reasons for the rejection of the law so that cabinet can present a revised version of it, Kaweesh said.

The government has also suggested the formation of a committee including representatives from the government and the parliament to reach a middle ground on those parts of the law that have proven to be controversial.

Khaled Al-Fiqi, head of the Engineering and Electrical Industries Union, told Al-Ahram Weekly that he rejected the law and that his union has prepared a report about the problems in it. He blamed the government for not consulting labour-organisation opinion when it prepared the law.

However, Al-Fiqi said that reforming the structure of the public sector is nevertheless crucial and the committee should work on amending the controversial items in the law as soon as possible.

“This committee should not start from the very beginning because almost 75 per cent of the law is positive, so it should be easy to change the controversial parts,” Al-Fiqi said.

The most positive point in the law, he said, is that it increases the base salary to 80 per cent of the total wage, in order to increase later pensions and social insurance.

Civil servant salaries in Egypt have always been composed of two components: the basic and the variable. The base salary is approximately 20 per cent of the employee’s wage and forms the basis of pension and social insurance calculations. As a result, upon retirement or injury what employees receive is often too little to satisfy the simplest living expenses.

There were some 6.4 million state employees, or around 20 per cent of the total workforce, in 2013-2014, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS).

Their salaries cost the government LE208 billion a year, or almost a quarter of public expenditure. In addition to the cost of wages, corruption and inefficiency is believed to be widespread in the public sector.

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