Public transport workers take strike to parliament

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By Heba Fahmy

CAIRO: Public transport workers moved an open strike to parliament on Wednesday, reiterating their demand to include the Public Transportation Authority (PTA) under the Ministry of Transport like other train and metro workers.

The workers accused the PTA of ripping them off and violating their rights, facilitated by the lack of direct supervision by the Ministry of Transport.

“The PTA officials don’t want to be under the supervision of the ministry so they can steal our money and violate our rights without being held accountable,” driver Mahmoud Ismail told Daily News Egypt.

Workers claimed that PTA’s board of directors stole their insurance money and denied them their pensions.

Officials from the authority were not immediately available for comment.

Atef Abdel-Dayem said he worked for the PTA for 30 years and LE 96 was deducted automatically from his monthly salary of LE 436 for insurance.

“Now the PTA is claiming that I didn’t pay the insurance. Where did my money go? What did they do with it?” he asked, adding that he would file a complaint to the Prosecutor General.

Even if the PTA is included in the ministry in the future, Abdel-Dayem will not be eligible to receive his pension, because according to the PTA he didn’t pay his insurance.

On average, salaries for bus drivers range from LE 300 to LE 500 depending on the years they have been working. Ten percent of all salaries are deducted monthly for pensions, according to the workers.

Under the Ministry of Transport, the workers would receive a 7 percent annual raise like metro and train workers. But now, the public transportation workers receive an annual raise ranging from LE 2 to LE 5, according Mahmoud Ibrahim, member of the independent workers’ union.

“What would LE 2 do for a worker amid the constant hike in prices?” Ibrahim said.

He claimed that the PTA’s board comprised corrupt officials affiliated with the former regime, who didn’t represent the workers or their needs.

“The board of directors should be elected by us, and our engineers and employees should be represented in it,” he said.

Al-Masry Al-Youm quoted a source inside the public transportation authority saying that the authority’s head was out of the country and her deputy failed to negotiate with the striking workers, which led to escalating the situation.

The workers’ other demands include better health care, and for the drivers to receive compensation for the risks they face in their jobs like other government employees.

Besides being prone to robbery, bus drivers also face accidents that they are left to handle on their own and are held responsible for.

Driver Ahmed Zaki was stabbed in the stomach by a thug during his round. “I had an operation and took sick leave, however the PTA deducted it from my salary even though I was injured on the job,” Zaki said.

He slammed the health care provided by the PTA, saying that there were no competent doctors, x-ray machines or decent beds.

“The smell of the hospital is so appalling that we are forced to seek health care outside, which is very expensive,” Zaki said.

The strike was suspended months ago in the authority’s 24 garages across Cairo and Giza. It started again on Sunday, after the government declined to meet the demands in an agreement that took place last September with the striking worker’s independent union, workers said.

Head of Center for Trade Unions and Worker’s Services (CTUWS) Kamal Abbas previously told DNE that Egyptian labor laws were “weak.”

“Our labor law does not set the rules of negotiation, and does not hold the government accountable for its promises. In other countries with strong labor laws, workers can take the case to court if the government does not comply with its obligations,” he said.

The strike forced many Egyptians to take the underground metro, which was packed as public transportation continued to be paralyzed.

At the same time, tens of disgruntled train workers obstructed the movement of trains out of Cairo, demanding new bonuses, according to the website of the state-run Al-Ahram.

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