Saturday, April 17, 2010

Four Demos Outside Parliament

Four different demonstrations were staged outside parliament today. These demos were staged by employees from the Information Decision Support Centers, the Agricultural Land Reclamation & Improvement Apparatus, the Nubariya Company for Engineering & Agricultural Services, and disabled persons.

The Information Decision Support Centers

Around 2,000 workers from the IDSC converged upon parliament today where they chanted for the fulfillment of unmet demands. Nationwide, there are some 32,000 employees of the IDSC - which is affiliated to the Ministry of Local Development. Since most are employed with temporary work contracts their wages range from LE 99 to LE 149 (only $US 18 to $ 27) per month.

Temporary work contracts deprive employees of their right to periodic/annual bonuses, the right to establish local trade union committees, and the right to receive insurance coverage,the right to a pension upon retirement, amongst other rights. It is on this basis that IDSC workers are demanding full-time contracts, an adequate minimum wage, health and social insurance, and the establishment of trade union committees.

Hundreds of IDSC employees had demonstrated and slept-in outside parliament for nearly two weeks, until March 31, when the Ministry of Manpower and the Ministry of Local Development called on them to call off their demo - promising to meet their demands within 15 days.

The IDSC employees returned in force today (some with their family members), 16 days later, and called for the fulfillment of their demands. They announced their intention to sleep-in outside parliament until they receive written pledges from the respective authorities.

The Disabled

Around 50 disabled persons demonstrated outside parliament today for their 65th consecutive day. They have been demanding basic housing units, employment opportunities, (as stipulated by the law - 5% quota for disabled employees,) and/or kiosks from which to generate income for themselves and their families.

These people with special needs have been complaining about mistreatment from the Ministry of Health (immediately outside of which they are demonstrating) which prevents them from using their rest rooms, and filling-up their water bottles.

A disillusioned demonstrator shouted "I will boycott the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections; and I call upon the more than five million disabled persons in this country to do likewise."

This marginalized group of individuals is currently working on establishing a league for persons with special needs in order to protect and promote their rights.

The Agricultural Land Reclamation & Improvement Apparatus

Around 50 employees and workers from the Agricultural Land Reclamation & Improvement Apparatus, which is affiliated to the Ministry of Agriculture, demonstrated outside parliament for the 20th consecutive day. Nationwide, there are approximately 1,930 workers from this apparatus who are employed on temporary work contracts; On this basis they have been unable to establish local union committee committees.

These workers' and employees' monthly wages range from LE 60 to LE 100 (only $US 10 to $ 18,) while full-time workers at this apparatus are said to earn LE 500 - LE 600 per month (only $US 90 to $ 109,) Moreover, they complained that insurance premiums are docked from their pathetic wages, yet they are not covered by any insurance plans.

They are thus demanding full-time contracts, increased wages, periodic and annual bonuses, health and social insurance coverage, trade union committees, and pension plans upon retirement. This lot of employees said that they have received no replies regarding their demands from the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Manpower, or from members of parliament.

The Nubariya Company for Agricultural & Engineering Services

Nearly 100 workers, employees and engineers from the Nubariya Company (a private sector company) protested outside parliament for their 12th consecutive day. The company owner has ceased operations for the past 24 months - leaving a total of 217 workers jobless.

The Ministry of Manpower provided these workers with assistance payments (amounting to each worker's basic wage) for a period of seven months. The last time these workers received such assistance was seven months ago. The ministry has not moved to call for the liquidation of the company nor for the compensation of these workers.

These employees had demonstrated outside parliament from March 1 - 4, having called of their demo after receiving pledges from the ministry that it would intervene for the resolution of their crisis. They resumed their sleep-in demo upon realizing that the ministry did nothing.

Some workers announced that they would go on hunger strike if the ministry does not heed their demands for compensation and early retirement packages.

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