CAIRO: Doctors, university professors and trade union activists called Thursday for an increase in the minimum wage.
During the seminar organized by the Freedoms Committee of the Journalists’ Syndicate, and held in the Syndicate’s Cairo headquarters, speakers said that current wage rates cannot keep up with the increasing prices of commodities.
Prices of food products have skyrocketed in recent years. According to an article published in Al-Masry Al-Youm, the price of food products have increased between 33 percent and 122 percent in the last three years.
Tax collector and political activist Kamal Abu Eita said that workers must unite in their demand for increased wages. He was one of the leaders of the historic December sit-in led by tax collectors, which forced the government to acquiesce to their demands for affiliation with the Finance Ministry and wage increases.
“We’re one people fighting to eat. We must stand shoulder to shoulder to call for a decrease in prices and a decent wage, he told the audience.He also called on workers to form independent trade unions to voice their demands.
“We need an independent trade union system, made up of us, rather than imposed on us.
Nabil Abdel Ghany, a member of the Tagammu political party, said that the spread of labor unrest to the white-collar workers such as doctors and university professors indicated the extent to which rising inflation has affected all sectors of society.
“It has come to the point where the government is clashing with doctors and university professors – this regime no longer has any legitimacy, he said.Doctors and university professors are currently threatening industrial action if their demands for improved pay and conditions are not met.
Director of the Center for Socialist Studies Kamal Khalil said that the labor movement which began at the end of 2006 has been marked by three important features.
“Firstly, in Mahalla this month we witnessed 20,000 workers protesting for a minimum wage – not just for themselves, but for all workers. Secondly, the strike committee formed during the tax collectors’ strike was turned into an independent union. And thirdly, we saw workers protesting in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, Khalil explained.
Khalil called for a conference in May to coordinate efforts for a minimum wage.
“We must organize a general conference for all workers so that we can transform the demand for a LE 1,200 minimum wage into reality. Doctors, workers and civil servants must make a unified stance, Khalil said.
Academic Yehya El-Azzaz went further and called for a one-day strike on Labor Day.
“We must organize a coordinated, one-day joint strike bringing together all political forces to voice our demand for a minimum wage, he said.