Transport workers announce open sit-in near Cabinet

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CAIRO: Despite news that a settlement has been reached, around 3,000 Public Transport Authority (PTA) workers started an open-ended sit-in outside Cabinet building until their demands are met, following a 10-day strike that halted the transportation system.

Their announcement came days after the Independent Union for Public Transportation Workers suspended a nationwide strike until Oct. 10 after a meeting with Ministry of Manpower Ahmed El-Borai.

“We don’t care about names, so far none of our demands have been met, they did not even issue a timeline,” said Mostafa Khalaf, a driver.

The workers blocked Qasr Al-Ainy road with barricades and prevented cars from passing through on Saturday. However, traffic was flowing normally on Sunday.

Some accused the head of the Independent Union Ali Fattouh and the union of fuelling the crisis.

Last Tuesday, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf had promised to solve the transport workers’ problems, but delegated El-Borai who said he would not negotiate with them until the strike is suspended.

Protesters demanded the dismissal of El-Borai for refusing to negotiate with them before they resumed work.

“We are calling for his dismissal because he disrespected us [workers],” Khalaf said, adding that the drivers and conductors vow to continue their strike if Cabinet continues to ignore their demands.

Khalaf also said that the Cabinet led by Sharaf should bear the economic and social consequences of the strike as long as they refuse to meet these demands.

According to workers, the Independent Union failed to make any gains in its meeting with the minister.

El-Borai met with union representatives last week and agreed that the 200 percent incentives, promised to all public sector workers, would be delivered within 10 days.

Workers said that they would continue the sit-in until an official memo from the prime minister’s office is distributed to all garages stating that the Independent Union has agreed with the minister on a timeline for implementing the demands.

Sherif Salah, a bus driver, said that not all drivers and conductors have delegated the union to negotiate with the ministry on their behalf, but said that they will abide by the agreement only if the ministry issues an official statement to all garages.

In addition to the 200 percent incentives, drivers are demanding new uniforms, upgraded buses to provide better services, security during their shifts, better bonuses, better retirement compensation and sustained insurance payment.

The drivers also want the PTA to be affiliated to the Ministry of Transportation instead of the governorates, to be treated like their counterparts at the Metro and Train Authorities.

According to the Socialist Studies Center website, Kamal Abu Eita, head of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions, said that during a private meeting, El-Borai told him that the government will respond to the demands of PTA employees’ wage increases which will cost LE 128 million.

The minister reportedly asked Abu Eita to persuade the demonstrators to end the sit-in in front of the Cabinet and return to work.

Daily News could not reach Abu Eita for comment by press time.



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