Labour Day 2017: Workers in Egypt still call for their rights

Sarah El-Sheikh
3 Min Read
A campaign titled “Towards a Fair Labour Law” has been launched, demanding better work environment for workers. (Photo from Aswat Masriya/File)

In conjunction with Labour Day celebrations in Egypt, workers’ strikes continued in the country against unfair payment and unorganised work regulations, in which the current period witnessed protests by workers of Telecom Egypt and Tourah Portland Cement.

Their protest is part of a series of strikes seen by Egypt’s workers to call for their rights.

Over the recent years, labour groups working in governmental institutions did not stop arranging rallies to call for their rights. A majority faced arrests and continuously renewed detentions.

The demands of the workers largely focused on late payments or not receiving annual bonuses.

Among the well-known cases of workers facing detention over strikes are groups of the Public Transportation Authority and Alexandria Shipyard Company, in addition to other companies and factories.

The Democracy Index reported that Egypt saw 244 protests from May 2016 to April 2017, calling for increased wages and access to financial dues. Workers’ strikes resulted in 186 arrests and the suspension of 2,691 workers.

Factories and companies are usually the ones that take the issue to the security forces instead of sorting out the issue peacefully with their employees.

Due to security restrictions, the year 2017 witnessed a decrease of 44% in labour movements, as the total number of protests in 2015 and 2016 recorded 1,117, according to the index.

Accusations levelled at workers include hindering work, inciting violence, and unlicensed protest. However, the index referenced that 95% of worker protests were described as being peaceful.

Despite testimonies of peaceful protests, there were cases of chaos. It was reported that a number of workers made attempts of blocking roads, preventing other workers from entering the company, and conducting assaults on companies and their officials.

Workers’ conditions are deteriorating, especially after a series of price hikes seen in the country due to the recent decisions made by the government in order to implement the terms of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan. Prices of most products, including essential goods, increased in a very short period, which heavily impacted low-income citizens.

Amnesty International published a report in conjunction with Labour Day, reporting that workers’ conditions in Egypt have yet to improve, as there are still many obstacles amid difficult economic conditions and security restrictions on general assemblies.

The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) reported in December 2016 that around 1,736 protests related to social and economic issues took place, in which protests by labour movements were the most frequent and continuous.

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