Weary workers in Egypt pose economic, political threats
Companies in Egypt feel the squeeze amid demands for higher pay. Meanwhile the government has hiked minimum wage 67 percent but unions say it’s still low as staff strikes continue.
October 9, 2011 1:00 by Reuters
…more unrest and more instability,” said Zaher.
The Workers Union during Mubarak’s 30-year-rule was seen, like most public bodies, as an ally of the ruling National Democratic Party. That has changed. Zaher took over as acting union head after his predecessor went on trial for corruption.
According to activists and members of the Union, there are at least 3 million people registered as workers in Egypt, with around 360,000 in the public sector.
“They certainly have the ability to attract many other sectors of the low-middle class who are the majority of the people, and this could lead to a bigger uprising than the past one,” said Al-Ahram’s Abdel Fattah.
Even in Mubarak’s time, workers showed readiness to challenge employers; strikes occurred in Mahalla el-Kubra in 2006 and 2008. But at that time, the state had more money in its coffers so it could offer wage hikes, and it had a strong police force that came down hard on protests.
Now there may be little respite for the government through next year or longer. Nagi Rashad, a union member employed by the state’s South Cairo & Giza Mills & Bakeries, said labourers needed new laws “to prevent company owners mistreating us or abusing our rights”.
“We will keep protesting until that happens,” he added. (By Yasmine Saleh; Additional reporting by Tamim Elyan; Editing by Edmund Blair and Andrew Torchia)