Labor, professional protests join popular uprising
Wednesday, Feb. 09, 2011
Jano Charbel & Staff
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.
*Photo by Tahsin Bakr