Around 37,000 real estate tax employees went on strike across Egypt today, August 11, demanding the right to establish their own independent social-aid fund. More than 1,000 of these striking employees demonstrated outside the Council of Ministers in downtown Cairo where they petitioned Finance Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali with slogans calling upon him to recognize their right to independently manage their finances. Ghali has reneged on his decree that these employees are to have their own social fund.
Angry employees also chanted slogans denouncing Hussein Megawer, the President of the (state-controlled) Egyptian Trade Union Federation; some even staged a mock funeral for him. Megawer was being denounced on the basis of his refusal to recognize the legal personality of their free trade union organization, and his denial of its rights to function independently of the ETUF.
According to the provisions of Egypt’s interventionist trade union legislation all unions must affiliate to their respective general trade union, of which there are 23, within the ETUF. The real estate tax employees had been affiliated to the (yellow) General Union for Employees of Banks & Insurance Companies.
The General Union of Real Estate Tax Authority Employees was established in January 2009, and is Egypt’s first independent trade union since 1957. This historical accomplishment was realized in light of their successful nationwide strike in December 2007 through which they won increased benefits and wages (raised threefold.)
Late this evening the employees moved to suspend both their strike and demonstration pending negotiations with the Finance Ministry, but further action is expected.