Around 1,000 workers, professionals, civil servants, and activists demonstrated today, May 2, outside the Council of Ministers in Downtown Cairo. Thousands of troops from the Central Security Forces and police officers were deployed around the Council of Ministers and Parliament.
The primary demand of this Labor Day protest was for a monthly minimum wage of LE 1,200 (only US$ 218); yet other demands were also raised including: the right to establish independent trade unions, the right to strike, the right to adequate insurance and pension plans.
Beyond the demand for a minimum wage, protesters called for the establishment of a maximum wage/income - so as to curb corruption, decrease excessively wide income discrepancies, and to limit the misappropriation of public funds.
Demonstrators chanted slogans against President/Dictator Hosni Mubarak, Prime Minister Ahmad Nazif, Labor Minister Aisha Abdel Hady, Minister of Interior Habib el-Adly, Minister of Investment Mahmoud Mohie el-Dein, and Hussein Megawer, the President of the state-controlled (yellow) Egyptian Trade Union Federation. Slogans were also directed against the repressive Emergency Law which has continuously been imposed upon Egypt since 1981.
Workers from the Mahalla Textile Company, Tanta Flax & Oils Company, Real Estate Tax Authority, Nubariya Company for Engineering & Agricultural Services, the Agricultural Land Development Authority, Information Decision Support Centers, along with steel workers, teachers, lawyers, journalists, students, nurses, pensioners, and disabled persons, amongst others showed up to voice their discontent with the socio-economic status quo.
Activists from the (Nasserist) Karama Party, the Egyptian Movement for Change (Kefaya,) the April 6th Youth Movement, the (social democratic) Tagammu' Party, the (Islamist) Labor Party, the (Trotskyist) Revolutionary Socialists, along with independent activists and bloggers joined in this angry, yet non-violent, Labor Day demonstration.
Following the demonstration, a Labor Day press conference was held at the Journalists' Syndicate which was attended by several hundred workers, professionals, students, labor activists, and the media.
Demands were raised for the right to establish an independent General Union for Pensioners - along the lines of the independent General Union for Employees of the Real Estate Tax Authority, which was established in 2009 as Egypt's first free union since 1957. Similarly, demands for the establishment of an independent General Union of Public Transport Authority Workers were made.
Workers vented their grievances regarding hazardous working conditions, long shifts, exploitation, rising living expenses, pathetic wages, and governmental apathy. One worker from the Nubariya Company for Agricultural & Engineering Services explained "the authorities argue that we are politicized and that certain people, who are not workers, are mobilizing us." He added "we are in fact non-politicized workers. However, there are certain people who are moving us and for whom we do mobilize - these people are our children and our families whom we are no longer able to support."
A female worker from the Agricultural Land Development Authority said "the Authority deducts insurance premiums from our wages each month. Yet we are not covered by any insurance plan." She could not explain were this money was being transfered. "As a result of these deductions from our measly wages, we earn from LE 60 to LE 90 per month" (around $US 11 to $ 16.) "How can an individual subsist on such a wage, let alone feed their family?"