CAIRO: Train drivers are threatening to strike unless the Egyptian Railway Authority (ERA) puts into an effect an increase in an incentive payment promised to them.
Some 50 train drivers assembled in central Cairo’s Ramsis station at noon on Thursday before a delegation of four drivers attempted to meet ERA staff in order to discuss their demand that drivers receive an allowance paid according to the number of kilometers traveled.
Drivers want the ‘kilometer allowance,’ which currently stands at 11 piasters, to be increased to 25 piasters, and say that the ERA’s administration has not implemented this demand.
The delegation of four drivers was told that no one from ERA management was in the office.
When the entire group of train drivers went up the office accompanied by journalists, a member of the building’s security attempted to forcibly take photographer Hossam El-Hamalawy’s camera from him, but was prevented from doing so by the train drivers.
Train drivers had threatened to disrupt train services by staging a sit-in on the railway tracks, but suspended their protest after they were told that a meeting to discuss their demands would be held with ERA officials on Monday Nov. 24.
ERA blue-collar workers have long complained about poor wages and working conditions.
In February of this year, hundreds of train drivers staged a sit-in on the railway tracks.
Last year, in December, train safety technicians held a protest during which they warned about the dire safety situation on the Egyptian railways.
Technicians told Daily News Egypt during the December protest that mismanagement and corruption within the ERA Department of Industrial Safety has made it impossible for them to do their jobs.
During yesterday’s protest train drivers showed journalists conditions inside a train engine.
The dilapidated engine was filthy, missing equipment and covered both inside and on its exterior by what drivers say is flammable oil.
Drivers pointed to the door separating the main engine unit from the driver’s cab. The door is missing a handle, forcing train drivers to keep the door shut using a rock in order to protect their hearing from the din of the engine.
Dorms in the drivers’ rest house were in a similar state.
Train driver Mohamed Gamal says that the state-controlled official union has had little success in realizing drivers’ demands.
“Members of the union can’t do anything for us. They can’t do anything except try to calm things down between us and the management, Gamal told the press.
Gamal, whose basic salary after 10 years of service is LE 170, says that drivers are at “boiling point.
“Doctors have replacements, police generals have replacements but ERA train drivers are the only qualified drivers in Egypt, Gamal said.
“The ERA totally ignores train drivers – even though we are the railway.