Thursday, July 31, 2014

First half of 2014 witnesses 1,651 labor protests

Mada Masr
1651 labor protests so far in 2014, reports local NGO

July 2, 2014

Jano Charbel 

The Mahrousa Center for Socio-economic Development issued statistics on labor protests since the beginning of this year, citing a total of 1,651 industrial actions in the first six months of 2014.

The main motivation for the protests is linked to disputes over wages/salaries, followed by punitive dismissals, working conditions and safety standards, claims of corporate mismanagement/corruption, among other reasons.

According to figures compiled by the independent NGO, the second quarter of this year — from April to June — witnessed a significant drop in different forms of labor protests.

In the first quarter of the year there were 1,420 labor protests, but in the second there were only 231.
The spike in industrial action during the first quarter of 2014 has largely been attributed to the inability or unwillingness of the state to provide the new monthly minimum wage — LE1,200 (US$167) — except to 4.9 million employees, out of a total workforce of some 27 million nationwide.

Across the country, hundreds of strikes, sit-ins, protests and marches were held from January to March in demand of the minimum wage, particularly amongst public sector workers, who were denied it.

As for the second quarter of 2014, Mahrousa attributed the decline in industrial action to arbitration efforts by the Ministry of Manpower, the prime minister and his Cabinet, as well as company administrations.

Shortly after his appointment in late February, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb visited a number of companies experiencing labor unrest, and met with striking workers to convince them to put off their industrial actions and give authorities a chance to meet their demands.

In coordination with the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation, the Minister of Manpower, Nahed al-Ashry, enforced a one-year ban on strikes in Egypt’s second city of Alexandria from May 10. Ashry has reportedly sought to enforce similar strike-bans in other cities and governorates.

Mainstream media outlets have praised both the prime minister and minister of manpower for their efforts in quelling labor unrest. Both Mehleb and Ashry were members of Hosni Mubarak’s political regime since the 1990s.

However, this decline in labor protests may not last long.

On Wednesday, employees of the state-appointed National Council for Wages issued press statements warning of a new wave of strikes and labor unrest if austerity measures are introduced in the coming months.

Employees of the National Council for Wages warned that the cutting of fuel subsidies could lead to skyrocketing consumer prices and a drastic decrease in real wages.

They also warned that a “labor uprising” could take place if the minimum wage is not raised in accordance with inflation.

However, during the holy month of Ramadan, the number of industrial actions and other protests appears to be dropping, as is the yearly norm.

Mahrousa’s statistics indicate that from April to June, factory-based unrest was a major source of industrial action, fueling 55 strikes, sit-ins, marches and protests.

The second largest number of actions — 23 in total — during the second quarter of this year, was associated with medical staff, followed by textile workers — who held 21.

There were 18 protests involving security forces, followed by educational sector employees, who staged 16 protests.

Cairo is reported to be the governorate that witnessed the greatest number of industrial actions during the second quarter, followed by Suez, Gharbiya, Monufiya, and Sharqiya Governorates respectively.

Out of the 231 labor protests from April-June, there were 78 strikes/work-stoppages, 57 stationary protest stands, 32 sit-ins/occupations, 29 protest marches, 8 petitions/complaints filed, five hunger strikes, and 22 other forms of protest.

*Photo by Jano Charbel

No comments: