Thursday, April 30, 2015

Egypt: Incidents of labor unrest remain high, but pale in comparison to last year

Jano Charbel

The first quarter of 2015 was marked by a total of 393 labor-related protest actions, including strikes, hunger-strikes, marches, sit-in protests, and workplace occupations, El-Mahrousa Center for Economic Development reported this week.

In its report, Mahrousa — an independent association that documents protest actions across the country — said the figure does represent a high occurrence of labor unrest, but pales in comparison to the same period last year, in which a total of 1,420 labor-related actions were reported.

This plunge in the numbers can be attributed to several factors, according to Mahrousa, including concerted efforts from the Manpower Ministry and other state authorities to curtail worker strikes over the past year.

As part of those efforts, there have been ongoing police crackdowns on protesting workers, and employers have been taking punitive measures against workers or unionists involved in protest actions, the report said.

But labor unions have also been leading initiatives to minimize strikes for the sake of the economy, Mahrousa added.

Over the past three months, the chief grievance behind labor protests has been overdue payments, such as past due wages, bonuses, profit shares and other forms of compensation. At least 75 worker protests were responding to this problem, the report said.

Demands for better working conditions and higher wages were the second leading motivator behind protest actions. Mahrousa said 64 industrial protest actions have been organized around those demands since January.

Safety hazards, worker deaths and industrial accidents, improved healthcare, and demands for safety gear and heightened safety measures came in third place, with 56 protests rallying around these issues, according to Mahrousa. The report then listed demands for full-time contracts as the fourth most popular demand, with 49 protest actions targeting that issue.

Trailing behind those rallying points were protests against employers’ punitive actions against workers, such as mass lay-offs, forced relocations, pay cuts and demotions. Workers have so far organized 25 protests challenging these problems, Mahrousa said.

Sharqiya had one of the highest incidents of labor unrest, with a reported 31 protests occurring in the Nile Delta governorate since the beginning of 2015. Giza followed with 28, while Suez and Monufiya weighed in with 25 industrial actions during the first quarter.

Dozens of worker protests were also documented across several Upper Egyptian governorates over the past three months.

*Photo by Virginie Nguyen 

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