Kamal Abbas, a leader of the new Egyptian labour movement spoke today at the FBU’s conference. The FBU was instrumental in organising his visit to the UK and proud to host the first meeting. He received a standing ovation from delegates for his decades-long work for independent trade unions. This is his speech.
Dear comrades, brothers and sisters,
I’m happy to speak to firefighters’ delegates. Firefighters who put their lives on the line for the sake of duty.
When I think back to when I started my life as a worker, in the iron and steel industry, I remember when I took part in leading the great strike of 1989, and how me and my colleagues stayed strong and resisted in prison. We did this because we believed it was our duty.
And I remember my journey in building the Centre for Trade Union and Workers’ Services, as an organisation advocating and fighting for workers’ rights – above all, workers’ right to build their own, independent unions, and the right to strike. For the sake of those two rights, we went through many battles; we faced many obstacles. Each time I found myself in front of the interrogators, I said to myself: I am doing my duty.
And when we participated in the revolution, from the beginning, we passionately wanted workers to play their role in its victory. We released statements, we organised meetings and we played our full role in the revolution. In the last days of the revolution, we used the weapon of strikes – and we felt that we had done our duty.
After the revolution, we moved towards forming more independent unions. We toured around Egypt’s industrial cities, to help and encourage workers to form independent unions, based on democracy, unions dominated by workers’ will and capable of defending their rights. And when we did this, we thought we were doing our duty.
And today I trust that, as you meet together in this conference, you will discuss how to defend the rights of firefighters, those heroes who risk their lives as a price for doing their duty. To all of you I pay my regards and respects.