CAIRO: Investment Minister Mahmoud Mohieldin said on Tuesday Egyptian labor protests were focused on wages and contract demands at specific firms and did not pose a broader risk to local or foreign investment.
Low wages, surging prices and privatization have been the major complaints in a rising number of industrial disputes involving public and private sector employees in both blue-collar and white-collar jobs.
It is not really part of a trend. Workers have their own demands and when some sort of solution for employer and worker is reached these protests do not develop further, Mohieldin told a news conference.
Over the past months, nurses, textile workers and taxi drivers have held protests and strikes in different provinces over pay and what they said were breached agreements.
Last week, a coalition of several labor groups, including factory workers and office employees, staged a joint protest demanding a higher national minimum wage in a move some analysts said could signal broader coordination – potentially denting Egypt s image as an investment friendly country.
This is not an issue of concern for foreign or local investors in Egypt, Mohieldin said, adding that grievances were confined to specific issues such as wages or the negative effects of privatization on specific companies and factories.
He said some opposition politicians were seeking to capitalize on labor issues ahead of a parliament election this year and a presidential vote in 2011.
Most protests have involved workers at individual companies or factories, making it easier for the government to contain them. But analysts point to signs of coordinated strikes that may dampen investor interest in the sale of government assets.
The government has handled isolated strikes swiftly, largely with concessions. But broader action would be harder to quell.
The minister brushed off any discontent, saying it was largely due to the management of some companies.
Egypt is host to 60,000 registered firms, 25 percent of which are foreign and include Arab investors.
Egypt s national minimum wage has been LE 35 since 1984. Last week Egypt s Administrative Court ruled that the government must set a minimum wage that took soaring prices into account but did not set a figure.
Protesters say the government seldom applies the court s rulings.
Inflation was 12.8 percent in February, down from a peak of 23.6 percent in August 2008 caused by surging world commodity prices. -Additional reporting by Alastair Sharp.