Egypt: Labor and professional syndicates join popular uprising

Egypt: Labor and professional syndicates join popular uprising

Egypt is currently witnessing unprecedented labor and professional unrest in parallel to the popular uprising which has swept through the country since 25 January.

These protests are said to be linked to the broader uprising against President Hosni Mubarak's regime which has concentrated in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Protests re-deployed around the nation at a time when proponents of the uprising spoke of the importance of spreading it beyond the square’s territorial limits.

One face of protests on Tuesday was state media organization protests. Around a kilometer away from Tahrir Square, some 500 employees protested outside the headquarters of the state-owned Rose al-Youssef newspaper and magazine. Protesters denounced the operational and editorial policies of their editor-in-chief Abdallah Kamal and administrative chief Karam Gaber, both of whom have waged pro-regime and anti-uprising coverage.

Another protest involving around 200 journalists was staged outside the Journalists' Syndicate in downtown Cairo, where protesters demanded the recall of the syndicate's president Makram Mohamed Ahmed, a member of the ruling National Democratic Party and vehement advocate of Mubarak.

Meanwhile at the headquarters of state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper, Egypt's largest daily, around 500 print-shop employees protested demanding full-time contracts, benefits and bonuses. They continued their protest on Wednesday.

Employee protests also spread around the country. An estimated 5000 employees of the state-owned telecommunications giant, Telecom Egypt, staged protest stands in three different locations across the city--the Smart Village, Ramses Square, and Opera Square. Shady Malek, an engineer with the company said, "We protested today for the establishment of an adequate minimum wage and maximum wage for our company's employees and administrators."

Having concluded his protest stand in Ramses Square, Malek headed out to Tahrir Square to join the mass rally there. "Corruption is part and parcel of our company's administration," he said. "We have not raised any political demands at our workplaces, but the popular uprising has assisted many employees to overcome our fears."

"The employees at Telecom Egypt have also decided to protest in light of the [new' prime minister's announcement about the 15 percent pay raises. At this same time our administration has ordered that our bonuses and incentive pay be slashed. This is what angered us the most," he added.

Meanwhile, more than 6000 protesters belonging to the Suez Canal Authority also staged sit-ins on Tuesday in the cities of Port Said, Ismailia and suez, demanding salary adjustments. Suez Canal revenues are considered one of the top sources of income in the country.

Besides employees, laborers also pursued protests today. Over 100 workers at the state-owned Kafr al-Dawwar Silk Company and over 500 at the state-owned Kafr al-Dawwar Textile Company protested, before and after their work shifts, to demand overdue bonuses and food compensation payments.

Approximately 4000 workers from the Coke Coal and Basic Chemicals company in Helwan--home to several Egyptian industries-- announced a strike today, said sources from trade unions and syndicates.

The protesters called for higher salaries, permanent contracts for temporary workers, the payment of the export bonus and an end to corruption. They also expressed solidarity with protesters in downtown Cairo.

Around 2000 workers from Helwan Silk Factory also staged a protest at the company headquarters to call for the removal of the board of directors.

In the Nile Delta City of Mahalla, some 1500 workers at the private-sector Abul Sebae Textile Company protested to demand their overdue wages and bonuses on Tuesday morning. These workers are also said to have blocked-off a highway. While in the Nile Delta Town of Quesna, some 2000 workers and employees of the Sigma Pharmaceuticals company went on strike Tuesday morning, and the strike there continued Wednesday. These pharmaceutical workers are demanding improved wages, promotions, and the recall of a number of their company's administrative chiefs.

Also in Mahalla, Gharbiya, hundreds of workers from the Mahalla spinning company organized an open-ended sit-in in front of the company's administrative office to call for the delivery of overdue promotions.

The workers said all the company workers joined in the protest after the end of their shift to call for the dismissal of the board after the company suffered heavy losses since that board took charge even though the state has paid the company's debts.

More than 1500 workers at Kafr al-Zayyat hospital, also in Gharbiya, staged a sit-in inside their hospital to call for the payment of their overdue bonuses. The nursing staff started the sit-in and were joined by the physicians and the rest of the workers at the hospital.

Around 350 workers from the Egyptian Cement Company--whose factory is located along the Qattamiya-Ain al-Sokhna Highway--staged protest stands at their factory and outside their company's headquarters in Qattamiya on Tuesday.

According to Ibrahim Abdel Latif, they were "demanding the establishment of a trade union committee at our factory, a right which the company's administration has been denying us." He added, "I was sacked from the company one year ago while serving in the capacity of president of the workers' administrative committee. All 1200 workers at this factory have been demanding the establishment of a union committee, and my reinstatement. Yet not all the workers could join in these protests because of their daytime work shifts."

In Suez, more than 400 workers from the Misr National Steel company began a strike to call for pay raises, saying they have not received any bonuses for years and that the average salary at the company does not exceed LE600.

By Jano Charbel for Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Posted By

Khawaga
Feb 10 2011 20:53

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Ed
Feb 11 2011 08:38

Was great reading this, cheers Khawaga.. was especially good to read mention of workers from Mahalla and Kafr al-Dawwar getting in on the action. It was like the return of a pair of much-loved characters in a novel!

In that vein, has there been any mention of Mansoura-Espana workers? I remember from 2007ish they had an epic (and victorious if I remember right?) occupation.. would be interesting to see if they were also getting stuck in..

baboon
Feb 11 2011 14:25

Crucial information Khawaga particularly as the great majority of the proletariat will not be twittering or facebooking. Added to the above, workers from the Omar Effendi department store chain have also joined in with their own demands relating to pay and conditions. While the workers are expressing their views about corruption, repression and the support of the protests overall, all the above shows that these are economic demands against the state and not a support for one particular faction.

Early this morning there were reports of "protests" in Mansoura, but no details. The BBC is very much fixated on one square in Cairo and if there is a brief mention of workers' struggle here or there, it is not being repeated in later bulletins.

Khawaga
Feb 11 2011 16:20
Ed wrote:
It was like the return of a pair of much-loved characters in a novel!

I know! I was wondering what was going on in the factories in Helwan.

I've not heard anything about the Espana-Mansoura workers, but as baboon rightly points out the far, far majority of the Egyptian working class is not on Facebook or Twitter. Some of them can't even afford a landline...

I managed to get hold of Hossam via Twitter and asked him whether labour actions across Egypt were underreported while the eyes of the world was on Cairo. His response was that the strikes started in earnest this week. So if we haven't seen something from them yet, then perhaps we will.

Zanturaeon
Feb 14 2011 01:58

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=164538276931487#!/event.php?eid=164538276931487

Major update: the military junta has declared union meetings illegal, making strikes and independent working class activity impossible.

Please spread the word and raise the call for worldwide demonstrations against this grave counter-revolution!

Workers of the world, unite!
Long live the Egyptian revolution!
Revolution until victory!

Mark.
Feb 14 2011 09:58

Egyptian military plans to outlaw strikes

Quote:
While most demonstrators have been leaving Tahrir Square in the centre of Cairo, some have reacted angrily to suggestions that industrial action could be outlawed.

The generals who now rule Egypt say they are determined to get the country back on its feet.

But many workers are already pressing for better deals.

Bank staff have forced officials to give them the day off today and there have been reports of protests, sit-ins and strikes at largely state-owned institutions.

These include the stock exchange, textile firms, media organisations, steel firms, the postal service and railways, the police and the health ministry...

alan on tyneside
Feb 15 2011 08:19

For daily updates on Egypt strikes, plus video, songs etc :

http://paper.li/tag/EgyWorkers

On twitter: #egyworkers

Ed
Feb 16 2011 00:13

Cheers for that alan, will keep an eye on it..

Bammy
Feb 18 2011 14:56

What is interesting in all this going on in the Arab world is the way it seems to undermine the vangardist and conspiracy theory of history. In the risings in eastern Europe in the last century there was always the suggestion that the Americans and the CIA were in some way behind things, but here the U.S. has clearly been caught on the wrong foot.

Last week, before a House intelligence committee hearing the U.S. national intelligence director, James Clapper, had to defend himself against criticisms that he had failed to warn clearly enough about the coming crisis in Egypt. He said: 'We are not clairvoyant'. Mr Clapper talking about worldwide threats to the United States said: 'Specific triggers for how and when instability would lead to the collapse of various regimes can't always be known or predicted.' Another colleague, Leon E.Panetta, said it would always be difficult to know precisely when a potential critical situation would turn explosive.

The interesting thing here in Egypt and Tunisia is the apparent absence of the need for a revolutionary political party to get rid of the dictator. I have tackled this issue elsewhere in more depth on the Northern Voices blog at www.northernvoicesmag.blogspot.com and considered the difficulties people in the social sciences experience in analysing these events.