Thursday, June 9, 2011

Egypt: Workers defy controversial anti-strike law

BNO News
Egyptian workers defy controversial anti-strike law

June 8, 2011

CAIRO (BNO NEWS) -- Egyptian workers on Wednesday took to the streets to demand better working conditions, defying the controversial anti-strike law, Ahram Online reported.

Employees of Egypt's state owned automobile company Nasr Car, along with tenant farmers, graduates of Al-Azhar University and staff members from the ministry of state for antiquities (MSA) gathered in front of the Cabinet offices to make their demands known.

Nasr Car Company employees called on the company's management to rehabilitate workers forced to take early retirement, while top graduates of Al-Azhar University began their first day of a collective hunger strike to demand employment within the university.

Tenant farmers protested against the government for depriving them of land, while employees of the newly formed MSA demanded permanent contracts and decent working conditions.

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf's interim government announced after the workers went on strike their decision to apply the anti-strike law criminalizing any form of action that disrupts work and production. Shortly after, police forces and plain-clothed police officers used force to disperse the crowd and arrested at least seven tenant farmers.

Waleed Sami, speaking on behalf of the protesting MSA staff, announced that employees would begin an open-ended strike, spanning the length of Egypt from Alexandria to Aswan. The strikers are debating when to close down all tourist sites in Egypt, but security staff from the Pyramid site in Giza already announced that it will be shut down on 15 June.

In March, the Egyptian interim cabinet approved a decree-law that criminalizes protests, strikes and sit-ins that disrupt the economy. The law assigns severe punishment to those who call for or incite sit-ins, with the maximum sentence one year in prison and fines of up to half a million Egyptian pounds (84,000 dollars).

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