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...
thursday morning, 9.15 AM. i'm late again. as usual. waiting for one of my innumerable pilipino flatmates to finish taking her shower and leave me the toilet. there are new people in the apartment this month. it means new morning fights for the bathroom.
(April 3, 2008)
a couple of days ago -----> morning, looking for a taxi to go to work.
finally one of the new taxis stops and i kindly ask to the taxi driver to take me to the Corniche, next to Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.
it's a nice day, i feel happy and fresh and pumped up for a new day.
the taxi driver starts the taximeter, goes forth and after 20 meters asks me: "do you know where is Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank?".
so i reply: "don't you know it? i'm sorry i'll not waste my time" and while i get off the taxi he asks me for 0.10 AED fare (?????).
so my mood changes a little, but i'm so lucky that i just find another taxi waiting for me.
this one is an old taxi and the taxi driver is an old man with a long white beard, wearing his white peron-o-tomban and a skullcap on the top of his balding head: a sort of uniform for almost all the drivers of old taxis (most of them comes from Peshawar and i think this is a kind of their "traditional dress").
the old man is very friendly and we start to talk about the new taxis that Abu Dhabi government introduced a couple of months ago: they are pretty expensive and the taxi drivers don't know the city because their company recruits them directly from Pakistan to pay a lower salary... that's bad, i know! and it's also bad that i was not enough patient to explain him the direction (i swear i felt bad after a while that i got off!), but most of the time you just keep on turning around a place and pay a higher fare... and i'm sorry, but in the morning i'm intractable!
so i enjoy talking with the old man and i'm happy again. and i guess he is happy too since he starts to talk a lot to me.
then he asks me where i come from and since how long i've been living in Abu Dhabi.
i say: "ten months. still new..."
then it's my turn to ask him: "and you? since how long do you stay in Abu Dhabi?".
the picture in his car (his taxi license or something like that) shows a man much younger than him, so i guess the answer will be 15-20 years at least.
"i'm expired in the Emirates. i am here in Abu Dhabi since 32 years. i've finished my life here. now i'm ready to die."
and i've felt so bad for him. i was trying to say no, you still have many years... you can go back to Pakistan... and blablabla..., and then i've realized that this man is probably younger than my father, but he looks like my grandpa. life was bitter for him.
we talked a little more till i arrived down the office and he has been a very kind a nice person unlike most of the Pathan taxi drivers around.
the ride was 3.50 AED and i left him 10 AED. he tried to give me the rest back and i've said: "no, keep it! this is for you, for the nice conversation..."
so he smiled at me and said: "i will remember you italian lady!". yes, i will remember you too, Mr. Shiraz.
the western way to keep you conscience quiet...