A new wave of labor strikes is sweeping Egypt, from Alexandria to Aswan, primarily in public sector companies.
In the Mediterranean governorate of Alexandria, hundreds of bus drivers and other Transport Authority employees have been on strike for the past two days, prompting military authorities to deploy strike-breaking tactics.
In the Nile Delta, a textile workers strike is ongoing at the state-owned Samanoud Felt Company and the Damanhour Carpet Company. Employees in the Endowments Ministry are also striking, as well as an extended strike by Aswan street cleaners and private transport company drivers.
Since Sunday, workers in Alexandria have refused to operate any buses from the Transport Authority’s garages in the districts of Somouha, Sidi Beshr, Moharam Beik, Agamy, Amariya, and Kormouz.
According to several local news portals, this strike has left throngs of commuters stranded and overburdened other forms of public transport, causing traffic jams across the city of Alexandria. The strike is only affecting bus services, not the authority’s tramlines, the President of Alexandria’s Public Transport Authority, Khaled al-Eiwa, told media outlets.
Officials from the Northern Military Region, headquartered in Alexandria, dispatched 25 buses, with a 52-passenger capacity each, in response to the strike, the privately owned Tahrir news portal reported.
This is not the first time the Armed Forces has acted to break transport strikes. In February 2012, military buses were deployed in response to a drivers’ strike in the public sector Delta Bus Company, and in July 2014, they sent buses to break a bus drivers’ strike in the Giza governorate.
Employees from Alexandria’s Public Transport Authority posted a list of demands on their official webpage, calling for the payment of overdue bonuses, unpaid profit shares, and an end to pay-deductions associated with buses that have broken down or are in need of maintenance work, amongst other demands. Workers say they have presented these demands before to Eiwa, to no avail.
Despite sharp increases in public bus fares since 2008, the meager wages of Transport Authority workers have largely stagnated, they argue, threatening to escalate from work stoppages to hunger strikes if their demands continue to be ignored.
Also in Aswan, the drivers of private passenger pick-up trucks commenced a strike on Saturday in protest over the termination of their licenses by the governor. This ongoing strike caused major traffic congestion across the governorate, according to the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper.
Several hundreds of striking employees from the Endowments Ministry protested outside its branch office in the Dokki district of Giza on Monday, demanding improved wages, and working conditions. They had been on strike since Sunday, according to the privately owned Masr al-Arabia news portal, who added that many of these state-employed workers do not receive the minimum wage of LE1,200 per month, which was enforced in January 2014. Some Endowments Ministry workers earn as little as LE600 per month — half the minimum wage — according to the state-owned Al-Akhbar news portal.
The ministry reportedly employs around 6,000 workers, many of who cite precarious working conditions and invalid employment contracts, and are demanding the resignation of Endowments Minister Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, for repeatedly failing to heed their demands and resolve issues.
In October 2015, police units forcefully dispersed around 1,200 protesting Endowments Ministry employees, who had converged on Abdeen Presidential Palace to voice their grievances.
Scores of workers at the Damanhour Carpet Company, in the Nile Delta Governorate of Beheira — which is affiliated with the Endowments Ministry, have been on strike for a week. Several workers at the company say their monthly wages are just LE400, according to the privately owned Al-Watan newspaper. Other grievances reportedly include the non-payment of bonuses, along with stalled production lines and a lack of ministerial investment in this public sector company.
In a separate industrial action in the Town of Samanoud, located in the Nile Delta Governorate of Gharbiya, hundreds of textile workers launched a strike on Monday over the sacking of their local union representatives.
The independent Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services reported that eight workers from the public sector Samanoud Felt Company – including the president of the local union committee and several other union members – were sacked by the company’s administration on Sunday.
These unionists were fired in contravention of domestic labor and trade union legislation, as they weren’t permitted a hearing before the General Union of Textile Workers, to which this union is affiliated.
Although Monday’s strike was held to demand the reinstatement of these eight workers, unionists and laborers have been demanding the payment of overdue bonuses and the reoperation of several stalled production lines for months.
Hundreds of public sector street cleaners continued to strike for the eleventh day in Aswan on Monday, resulting in floods of uncollected garbage in the streets, Al-Watan reported.
Street cleaners have been demanding fulltime contracts for fulltime work, as they are currently employed by the governorate of Aswan on precarious, part-time contracts, some of them for more than five years. Such contracts deprive them of bonuses, the right to join trade unions, adequate insurance or pension plans, and other rights.
In reponse to the strike, the Governor of Magdy Hegazy has promoted a “Clean-up Your Country” campaign this week, aimed at local residents, and seeking to circumvent the strike by having locals collect and dispose of their own garbage.