Egypt labour unrest: late October updates

Mahalla textiles workers in September, 2007

A short update on labour struggles in Egypt in late October.

Egypt’s workers’ unrest is continuing unabated. According to the Egyptian Workers and Trade Union Watch (EWTUW) there have been a total of 580 industrial actions in the period January- September. Almost every month sees an increase in workers’ actions: from around 20 in early 2007 to the peak of 100 and 94 actions in August and September respectively. The number of workers participating and threatening to join in strikes is also on the rise, and the unrest has also spread geographically. In all of 2006 the Land Centre for Human Right documented a total of 222 strikes, which was a significant increase in workers' unrest from 2005.

Real Estate Tax Collectors Strike
On Sunday 21st 55,000 real estate tax officers started a strike, demanding improvement in work condition to be on par with their counterparts in other government civil service sectors. In effect the strike started right after the Eid holidays through work stoppages; there was a 90 percent drop in tax collection activity. The geographical scale of the strike is significant as it will include provinces from Upper (South) and Lower (North) Egypt.

The real estate tax officers are employed by the local councils and receive only one-fourth of the monthly salary (LE 1200/$216, including bonuses) of their colleagues at the Ministry of Finance.

Approximately 3000 strikers from Cairo, Giza, Fayoum, Monofiye, Beni Sueif, Menya, Daqahlia and Beheria gathered outside the Ministry of Finance and chanted slogans against Fianance Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali and Islamil Abdel Rasul, head of the Real Estate Tax Administration.

There are rumours that the government will solve the tax collectors problems by December 1st, though this has not stopped the strike and strike organizers have promised that no taxes will be collected until that date. If demands are not met by then the tax collectors will launch another round of protests.

Strike at Telephones Equipment Company in Ma’assara
Around 500 workers at the Telephones Equipment Company in Ma’assara (south of Cairo), have been on strike since Monday 22nd over the non-payment of quarter-annual bonuses, equal to 90 days wages.

The majority of the 1400 strong workforce is on temporary contracts, hired after the company’s privatization in 2001. The workers on strike are those with permanent contracts from before privatization. The temporary workers were already involved in struggles for permanent contracts before the recent strike started. The two groups of workers are now attempting to unite the struggles.

Demonstrations in Ghazl el-Mahalla
Demonstrations broke out at the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Ghazl el-Mahalla against a propaganda campaign by the company’s management to try to get workers to not pursue the overthrow of Madmoud el-Gebally, chairman of the company, at the coming general assembly.

Between 1500 and 3000 1st and 2nd shift workers took part in the protest that lasted for half and hour and ended at 4 pm.

On Saturday 20th, microbus drivers in Mahalla struck over improvement in working conditions. This comes after drivers in Alexandria, Monofiya and Dakhaliya struck over similar demands.

800 garment workers struck in Alexandria on Sunday 21 over unpaid bonuses.