PUT POLICE ON TRIAL AND END ALL ANTI-STRIKE LAWS! – demand Egyptian workers and youth

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Political groups participating in the Tahrir Square sit-in issued two statements Sunday underlining their demands.

The statements were issued separately, but the demands are almost identical.

One statement was issued by the Revolution Youth Coalition, The Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Revolutionary Socialists, the Democratic Workers Party, the National Front for Justice and Democracy, the Free Egyptians, the No to Military Trials Campaign, Mosharka (Participation), Bedaya (A Beginning), the Karama Party and Hamdeen Sabahy for President campaigners.

It stated the concessions made by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf came only after pressure was exerted by the sit-in. Therefore the sit-in will continue to accomplish the following demands:

1. The public trial of all officers involved in the killing of the martyrs of the Egyptian Revolution.

2. Quick and public trial of the Mubarak family and the symbols of corruption of the former regime.

3. Annulment of all rulings by military courts against civilians and referring them to civil courts and bringing a complete end to military trials of civilians.

4. Revoking the anti-strikes and anti-demonstrations law.

5. Limiting the authorities of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and increasing the authorities of the government in applying its policies, including its right to reshuffle ministers and governors.

6. Repealing the new state budget and drawing up a budget favouring the poor, following public debate.

The statement confirmed that the undersigned refuse the ongoing negotiations with Essam Sharaf’s government for lack of a viable mechanism to maintain the dialogue or to put its recommendations into effect.

The signatories called for a million-man march on Tuesday.

A parallel statement was put by the National Council, its constituent groups, and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions.

Kamal Abu Eitta standing on Tahrir Square’s central stage confirmed that after six months, the revolution’s demands have not been met and consequently people have decided to retake the streets.

The demands listed by the statement include: 1. Ending the military trial of civilians and referring all those tried by military tribunals to civil courts.

2. Revoking the anti-strike law, the new party law and the new parliamentary law as going against the revolution’s demands.

3. Special courts to try those responsible for the killing of the martyrs of the revolution, to try cases of economic and political corruption and to try the Mubarak family and its regime.

4. Giving martyrs’ families and the injured their full rights.

5. Recovering all the nation’s stolen money inside and outside the country.

6. Appointing a civil minister of interior.

7. Restructuring the Ministry of Interior, firing and trying police officers involved in torture, and establishing full judicial supervision over the ministry.

8. Dismantling Egypt’s General Workers Union for being a tool of the former ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).

9. Setting a new state budget that included a LE1200 minimum wage, a maximum wage that does not exceed 15 times the minimum wage, and linking wages with prices.

10. Cleansing the Council of Ministers and all state institutions, including its media and banks, of corrupt former regime figures.

11. Banning former NDP members from running for election for two consecutive parliamentary rounds.

Consensus over these demands is reflected in the slogans and banners raised in Tahrir Square.

In the five months since president Hosni Mubarak was toppled after 30 years of iron-fisted rule, many of Egypt’s fault lines have come to the surface.

Unknown assailants have bombed the natural gas pipeline to Israel three times.

Symbolic strikes against a hated accord that Egyptians often blame for high prices at home have occurred and thousands of people have been injured in clashes with the security forces.

On July 2, suddenly, Port Tawfiq, the vast shipyard that marks the southern entrance to the Suez Canal, and the southern half of the city of Suez went dark.

Someone had broken into an electricity control room there and thrown a switch. Ten minutes later, the lights came back on.

‘We did not cut the cables, although we could have,’ said Emad El Sadeq, a technician for the Suez Canal Shipyards. ‘We had to give them a taste of what we can do.’

The workers who have been on strike for the last three weeks had made their point: that the Suez Canal, one of the world’s busiest transportation hubs, could be paralysed with very little effort.

Suez Canal not only generates $1.2 billion annually for Egypt but also is a major transportation corridor for ships and cargo moving between Europe and Asia.

The canal authority’s recent financial report shows quarterly revenues up $100 million over last year.

The average income here, workers say, is about $130 a month from the seven subcontractors.

Employees who work for the canal authority itself make far more.

Hamdy Saleh, 33, a Suez Canal shipyard technician, said: ‘How am I supposed to support my family? I have a daughter and I support my mother as well. I am fed up!’

It could have been worse, Saleh said referring to the electricity outage. ‘This time it was peaceful, but next time, we will dismantle the floating dock to block the canal totally.’

An average of 50 ships cross the Suez Canal in both directions each day.

In June, the US aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and the USS George Washington crossed, headed toward waters off Libya.

The so-called subsidiary companies employ 9,000 workers who control nearly all the canal’s functions, from dock and port maintenance to moving ships in and out.

They make up about half the canal’s workforce. During Mubarak’s rule, labour strife was practically nonexistent here.

But in the months since Mubarak fell, canal workers have staged sporadic strikes, including the current one, which has idled 1,200 workers for the Suez Canal Shipyards Co, the most profitable of the subsidiaries.

The strike has cost the company about $5 million in fees, and may cost it more in penalties paid to shipping companies that have sued because contracted work hasn’t been performed.

Six foreign and Egyptian ships are stranded in the canal’s dry docks awaiting maintenance. Two others, work completed, can’t leave because workers won’t operate the floating dock needed to let them sail away. Other ships stand by awaiting repair.

The strike may spread or frustrated workers may take steps that truly shut down operations.

‘They now understand what we are capable of, especially those young and fed-up technicians,’ said Khalid Saleh, an officer of the Suez Canal Shipyards Workers’ Union.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, who largely ignored the strike until the electricity outage, have invited a workers’ committee to talks with Gen. Mohammed Farid, the commander of the Egyptian Third Army.

They demanded an immediate 40 per cent wage increase, a seven per cent annual raise and ‘proper life and health insurance’, as well as the release of five co-workers facing military trials.

Farid told the workers’ committee that the supreme council’s chairman, Defence Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, had ordered him to resolve the issue.

‘But Farid made no promises,’ Saleh said.

‘I hope they come back to us with a satisfactory solution in a few days or we will go on full strike and paralyse the canal,’ Saleh said. ‘We’ve tried all possible peaceful ways of protesting.’