Egypt: three strikes and three victories in one week

Mahalla strikers, September 2007

Egypt struggled Tuesday to stem a rising tide of industrial action as officials rushed to end the third strike in a week, the latest challenge to President Hosni Mubarak's regime.

Labour ministry officials met employee representatives at the Damietta Spinning and Weaving Co to come to an agreement just 24 hours after workers kicked off their strike, the official MENA news agency said. Labour Minister Aisha Abdel Hadi told reporters she was eager to "protect the interests and rights of the workers."

On Saturday, some 24,000 workers at the Mahalla Spinning and Weaving Co ended their strike over unpaid profit shares and low wages after the government agreed to meet their demands. The same pattern followed at the Tanta Linseed and Oil factory, where hundreds of workers struck to demand unpaid profit shares, with their demands swiftly met.

"The strikes are a new fashion threatening all of Egypt's companies," the chairman of the Damietta factory told the independent daily al-Masry al-Youm.

In December 2006, workers at the Mahalla textile factory, one of the largest in the world, staged a massive strike. Once the government gave in to workers' demands, new strikes erupted across the country. In 2006 alone, local media counted at least 200 instances of labour unrest.

Economic reforms that have yielded a six percent annual growth rate in the past three years have failed to trickle down. The strikes are seen as potentially the most serious challenge to Mubarak's regime.

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Oct 4 2007 12:22


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