Sunday, April 6, 2008
New strikes in Egypt.
Today, April 6, 2008, Egypt is facing a general strike, initiated by the textile workers of Mahalla al-Kubra in the Nile Delta, among the best organized and most politically conscious workers unions.
this is potentially the broadest-based gathering of dissent the Mubarak regime has ever faced, making his autocracy in Egypt forcefully challenged.
after two days local elections will finally take place, after a two-year delay to allow time for a sweeping crackdown on the Muslim Brothers. in classic Hosni’s style, the local elections have been rigged in advance through the elimination of most candidates known to oppose the National Democratic Party.
the general strike taking place today is the last one of hundreds in the wave of working-class collective action set off when the government of Prime Minister Ahmad Nazif, which took office in July 2004, began to accelerate the drive to privatize public-sector industrial and financial enterprises. the liberal daily al-Misri al-Yawm reported a total of 222 strikes, demonstrations and protests in 2006 and 580 in 2007. Workers and Trade Union Watch, a labor-friendly website, enumerated 27 collective actions in the first week of January 2008 alone. during 2007 strikes spread from their center of gravity in the textile and clothing industry to encompass building materials workers, transport workers, the Cairo subway workers, food processing workers, bakers, sanitation workers, oil workers in Suez and many others. private-sector industrial workers comprised a more prominent component of the movement than ever before.
one of the main reasons for this huge wave of strikes is the broad popular discontent over inflation and people’s anger over the shortage of subsidized bread, the main source of calories for the poor. the lines outside bakeries in Cairo’s poorer neighborhoods are the most visible indicator of how unequally the fruits of Egypt’s record economic growth are distributed.
and it is not just the price of bread that is stretching Egyptians’ meager budgets to the breaking point: according to al-Misri al-Yawm, the price of basic foodstuffs rose at rates of at least 33 percent (for meat), and as much as 146 percent (for chicken), from 2005 to 2008. the official annual rate of inflation for January 2008 was over 11 percent and over 12 percent for February. the Mahalla textile workers have popularized the demand for a national minimum wage of 1,200 Egyptian pounds a month to cope with this inflation. this move has embarrassed the trade union federation into advocating increasing the minimum wage from 115 Egyptian pounds a month, which has been the rate since 1984, to 800 Egyptian pounds a month. A family of four would live just below the poverty line of $2 a day on 1,200 pounds a month.
the rising cost of living led university professors to stage a one-day strike in March. doctors have also threatened to strike, and dentists have expressed dissatisfaction with their wages. the participation of these middle-class professionals in protests has lent broader legitimacy to the workers’ movement, but the political prospects of the strike movement remain uncertain.
click on the title of the post to read an article by Middle East Report from where i took most of the datas and information...