The Right to Strike

The right to strike allows employees to stop work voluntarily and collectively in order to pressure employers or authorities to accede to their demands.

Article 8 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights guarantees the right to strike, and provides that it should be exercised according to the laws of the concerned country. ILO conventions also protect this right. Article 11 of the Arab Labour Organisation’s Convention no. 3 for the year 1977 provides that “workers have the right to strike in order to defend their economic and social interests after exhausting legal means of bargaining.”

Egyptian Labour Law no. 12 for the Year 2003 also provided in Article 191 that “workers have the right to a peaceful strike which is to be exercised by their unions in order to defend their vocational, economic, and social interests within the limits and according to the regulations stipulated in this law. If workers of an establishment that has a union decide to strike in the cases allowed under this law, the establishment’s union—following the approval of two-thirds of the members of the administrative board of the concerned general union—should notify the employer and the concerned government authority of the strike at least fifteen days in advance in a registered letter. If there is no union in the establishment, workers should notify the concerned general union of their intention to strike. In this case, the administrative board of the concerned general union—following the approval of the majority mentioned in the preceding clause—should make the aforementioned notification. In any case, the notification should include the reasons behind the strike action and its intended period.”

Article 195 of Labour Law no. 12 for the Year 2003 considers the period of the strike an unpaid leave for the worker.

Proponents believe that workers’ right to a peaceful strike is an absolute and guaranteed right, and one of the few ways in which workers may defend their interests vis-à-vis employers. They also consider it a legitimate means of human resistance that cannot be restricted but may be regulated. Thus, infringement upon the workers’ right to strike is a violation of workers’ freedoms according to international law and custom.

Others argue that to strike is a legitimate right, but must be practiced with due regard to certain limits, including protection of public interests, the higher interests of the state, or the national economy.