While Egypt’s presidential election has dominated the headlines, the class struggle continues unabated with workers determined to defend their rights and improve living standards.
Egypt’s Centre for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS) website reported on Sunday: ‘For more than four consecutive days 1,000 workers in maintenance workshops in Metro Shubra have been on strike. They are demanding the implementation of the ministerial decree Number 1 for the year 2006, which decrees Fridays and Saturdays as a paid holiday and limits the number of working hours to 35 per week.
‘These rights are being ignored by the Railway Organisation which demands workers be on duty for 208 hours per month, which amounts to 54 per week with no compensation for those extra working hours. Moreover, labourers demand the same housing and transportation allowances that have been granted to drivers.
‘The Egyptian Democratic Labour Congress (EDLC) and Centre for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS) declare their solidarity with the workers and their legitimate demands. In addition, they demand the immediate opening of negotiations with the workers.
‘Surprisingly contrary to all expectations, and in a confrontational act, the Organisation has stopped trains from being serviced and maintained, but has still made them continue their trips – which poses risk, danger and havoc and endangers the lives of passengers. EDLC and CTUWS request all avid and democratic forces in Egypt to support these strikes.’
Meanwhile, Post and Logistics unions from around the world have answered the call to send support to the striking Egyptian postal workers as they struggle for the two-day weekend they were promised following an agreement signed last year, says the UNI global union federation.
Their statement at the weekend said: ‘UNI has received notice that a number of unions demonstrated in front of Egyptian diplomatic missions and many more have sent letters of protest to Egypt Post.
‘To UNI’s knowledge, the following organisations have participated in the call to action:
‘Transport & Telecom NEZAVISNOST, Serbia;
‘Union General de Trabajadores, Spain;
‘Communication Workers Union, UK;
‘Fédération Nationale des Postes et Telecoms, Morocco;
‘Palestinian Postal Service Workers Union;
‘Sindicato Nacional dos Trabalhadores dos Correios e Telecomunicações, Portugal;
‘The members of the UNI Europa Post & Logistics Committee.’
The CTUWS website said last Saturday 19 May: ‘For the third time in two weeks The Qualitative Workers Union (which is under establishment and comprises 13 independent syndicates) has called for nationwide strikes at more than 500 post offices to demand the abolition of the head of the organisation’s decision which requires workers to be on duty on Saturday without extra payment, as is the case in all other governmental sectors.
‘Moreover, this decision contradicts that of the Prime Ministererial decree Number 1 for the year 2006, according to which Fridays and Saturdays are official holidays for all workers in the country.
‘Workers at all post offices in Bani Suef governorate, Minya and Eastern Cairo and the Red Sea governorate are on strike.
‘The demonstrators demand the implementation of what was agreed upon after their last strike, which they ended in early April after they were promised the establishment of a fact-finding commission, in which workers take part, to investigate files of corruption within the organisation.
‘The head of the organisation ignored the recommendations and composed a commission out of his own entourage without hiring an outsider – as agreed upon. The Centre for Trade Unions and Workers Services (CTUWS) declares its solidarity with the demands of postal workers and asserts their right to what was decreed for Saturdays. And emphasises that circumventing what was agreed following a previous strike, namely, last month, is a deliberate provocation by the head of the organisation and his henchmen and is aimed at igniting the situation. CTUWS also calls on all democratic forces in Egyptian society to unite with postal workers to realise their legitimate demands.’
Meanwhile, global federation UNI reported last Saturday: ‘Tunisie Telecom is refusing to abide by the agreement signed between the government and the General Tunisian Labour Union (UGTT) on 22 April 2011 which forbids subcontracting in the public sector, and continues to subcontract certain areas of its operations.’
On Tuesday last week, a delegation of workers from the Tunisian trade union federation, UGTT, protested outside the Egyptian Embassy in Tunisia over the failure by Egypt Post to implement the collective contract that had been negotiated with the Independent Egyptian Postal Unions.
Neil Anderson, Head of UNI SCORE and Mongi Abderahim, UNI’s MENA Region Coordinator, met with the Chef de Cabinet of the Egyptian Ambassador to Tunisia who accepted a letter of protest from the Tunisian workers. The Egyptian Embassy said it would pass on the letter to the Egyptian government and that Egypt supported workers’ rights and good social relations with unions. Neil Anderson said that the negotiated agreement should be honoured and that workers should be able to take their designated day off on Saturday and the contract stipulated.
Mongi Abderahim told the Egyptian Embassy diplomats that Tunisian workers support the need to properly respect negotiated collective contracts, and that UGTT would work to support the Egyptian colleagues in their legitimate struggle for justice and respect for their collective agreement.
Last Thursday, around 50 protesters from the UGTT marched in central Tunis making their way to the Ministry of Communication and Technology and blocking its entrance. They voiced their demand for Tunisie Telecom to adhere to the law passed last year and to hire them as actual contract workers.
According to Zied Bouallagui, a security guard at Borawi Security Company (SBS), which does subcontracting work for Tunisie Telecom, the UGTT has held negotiations with the CEO and human resources manager of Tunisie Telecom, who refused to end the practice. ‘Tunisie Telecom and the government refuse to end (this practice) because some ministers from the former government of Beji Caid Essebsi own subcontracting enterprises,’ alleged Marouan Shebi, another security guard at SBS and a protester at Thursday’s march.
The April 22 law is not the only focal point of the protesters’ demands. ‘Corruption in Tunisie Telecom occurs at the financial level, with top-level management earning high wages and at the administrative level, with hiring based on personal connections,’ said Bouallagui.
Shebi and other participants in the protests are complaining that subcontracting companies do not provide social benefits for workers. According to Shebi, they are paid extremely low wages, between 90 and 100 dinars a month ($57-62). ‘We don’t even have holidays off,’ added Bouallagui.
As dialogue currently seems to be at a standstill, the strike is open-ended, the protesters said.