By Ashraf Abdul Wahab
Tripoli: The Egyptian General Federation of Trade Unions and Libya’s General Union of Workers have signed an agreement . . .[restrict]by which the Libyan union will represent the interests of Egyptians working in Libya.
The agreement signed on Sunday by the president of the Egyptian federation, Ahmed Abdulzahir and the his Libyan counterpart, Wanis Mohamed Al-Turki, at the end of their talks in Cairo.
Under the agreement, the Libyan union will seek to protect the working conditions of Egyptians in Libyan, ensure they are paid proper incomes, be given access to proper health care and the social security system.
Abdulzahir said that the two sides agreed on the need to raise awareness among Egyptian workers wishing to work in Libya of the importance of joining the Libyan union.
Before the revolution there were an estimated around 1.5 million Egyptians in Libya, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). They constituted the biggest expatiate group in the country and sent home $33 million a year.
There are conflicting figures as to how many fled back to Egypt during the revolution last year. Some reports say less than a half. However, officials in Cairo with the UN’s World Food Programme said last summer that there were 600,000 returnees in Upper Egypt alone.
Many now want to come back to Libya, especially since the salaries paid to workers have rocketed since the revolution — from LD 10 a day to nearer LD 50. Last September, it was estimated that 40,000 to 50,000 Egyptians were returning to work in Libya according to IOM.
The Libyan embassy in Cairo has been besieged by workers trying to obtain visas. But rules have changed. There are now health tests and visas are for a month only, although they can be extended by employers for up to six months once in Libya.