CAIRO: After the workers’ movement played a significant role in the January 25 uprising, a year later it is turning its attention to storming the political scene.
“There will categorically be no gain if the workers are not registered in the political equation. Workers will enter these records themselves only when they form a real political party, which advocates their demands and struggles, and challenges dictatorship and capitalism,” Khalid Ali, president of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), said Thursday at a seminar titled “Workers and the Revolution: A year gone without workers rights” at the Center for Socialist Studies.
He expressed hope that the Democratic Workers Party, currently under construction, turns into a full-fledged party that can sit in parliament.
The workers are recovering from a year of a massive workers movement, where their goals were consistently deflected.
Two pieces of legislation might have possibly hindered their movement.
In April, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) decreed the first law prohibiting strike action, and return to work in order to avoid a “state of confusion.”
“There was a LE 20,000 fine for whoever went on strike, but that did not disrupt the movement,” Haytham Mohamedein, a socialist lawyer, said.
A law allowing the right to form syndicates was not released. Against that, 150 new syndicates were formed.
The Misr Oil and Soap Company, a five-sector company formed by late president Gamal Abdel Nasser, was able to topple its management after a 22-day strike in December, according to Mohamed Abdel Wahab, an employee at the company.
Hala Talaat of the Egyptian Teachers’ Union said, “We are developing a strong union to stand against the corruption of the Ministry of Education, which, in reality, is a police ministry.”
Mahala workers, lauded for holding significant strikes, were resilient in ending theirs.
All speakers, representing different sectors, including spinning and weaving and air transportation, spoke for the purging of institutional corruption. Mohamedein said that, “Our supervisors are the frontline defense of the Mubarak regime.”
While some cited disorganization among workers as the reason behind last year’s failures, others named poor management, the further draining of workers’ rights, the divergence of workers and students, but mostly the privatization of companies.
Despite the renationalization of the three companies: Shebin El-Kom Textile Company, the Tanta Company for Linen and Derivatives and the Steam Boilers Company almost four months ago, the group of workers cited how the previous Cabinets appealed court rulings to annul privatization contracts. The transitional governments continue to appeal similar court rulings, they said.
They also condemned the incumbent Adel El-Mouzy, CEO of Chemical Industries Holding Company, and Mohamed El-Gilani, CEO of Textiles and Spinning Holding Company, who, according to the group’s statement, “were symbols of privatization in the Mubarak era.”
Ali also named Fayza Aboul Naga, minister of Planning and International Cooperation, “a member of the high-powered committee on privatization who agreed to sell companies in their initial price- values.”
“She, [Field Marshal Hussein] Tantawi, [Electricity Minister] Hassan Younis, [Prime Minister Kamal] El-Ganzoury, and 60 other businessmen are all implicated [in this crime],” he continued. “They have knitted a curtain of legislation regarding privatization and wasting public money.”
Ali added that workers must fight against bylaws regarding the evaluation of the price of industrial land which is as low as LE 150 per square meter, or calculated in approximation to the closest “industrial city.”
A minimum wage of LE 1500 and a new syndicate and trade union law are also among workers’ demands.
“I hope that the January 25 revolution’s anniversary will be in the form protest and not celebration,” Ali adds.
The teachers’ and other workers’ unions are planning rallies and marches on the day of the anniversary.