Cairo’s main railway station was packed with angry passengers and devoid of train drivers on Sunday morning amid a strike announced by drivers.
Drivers suspended their strike on Tuesday after negotiations with the Cabinet and Ministry of Manpower and resumed the strike this weekend.
Hussein Zakariya, head of the national authority for Egypt’s railway, told state-owned news agency MENA that he referred all striking drivers to the Administrative Prosecution.
The drivers are angered by the Minister of Transportation’s decision to increase the compensation for drivers’ jobs by 10%.
“Ten percent is not a big enough increase,” said Tarek Al-Beheiry, vice president of the Independent Transport Workers’ Union. “The drivers’ job demands that they drive for hours, usually forced to sleep outside their city of residence.”
Zakariya told MENA that the authority is holding negotiations with the striking drivers to look into their demands. Al-Beheiry stated that the drivers are striking because the authorities have ignored their demands.
“General transport equals national security,” Al-Beheiry said, adding that the strikers’ demands should be met immediately. “The drivers never wanted to go on strike; the authorities pushed them into it.”
Alongside compensation for long working hours, Al-Beheiry said the drivers are also demanding bonuses and meal allowances. He stated that general transport workers receive EGP 10 per day as a meal allowance, whereas the railway workers’ meal allowance is only EGP 6.
Passengers were disappointed in the strike, describing it as “destructive” for Egyptian society. Others called on the Minister of Justice to refer the striking drivers to trial.
“If the Minister of Interior does not respect the law by punishing those drivers, then how can I, as a citizen, be asked to respect those laws?” one passenger asked.
Passengers also condemned Prime Minister Hesham Qandil’s cabinet for allowing the strike to happen. Some called on Qandil to resign immediately.
“I have been waiting for the train to arrive since 6 am,” said Mohamed Abdel Wahed, a passenger from Gharbeya.
“A train driver called Mohamed Hassan was forced to drive train number 3206 to Alexandria,” said Dalia Moussa, media coordinator at the Egyptian Centre for Social and Economic Studies. Moussa added that the train never arrived in Alexandria because other workers prevented it from moving forward.
Moussa stated that political activists who arrived at the station to show solidarity with the strike were held inside the station.