Egyptian military fired shots in the air on Saturday to prevent hundreds of Suez Canal workers on strike from storming the administration office of the Canal Authority in Ismailia, witnesses told Reuters.
Many Suez Canal Authority workers in the cities of Ismailia, Suez and Port Said have staged protests for five days in a row asking for higher pay and better work conditions.
"The workers were trying to get inside the canal administration office when an officer came out of a tank and fired around 15 shots in the air and dispersed the crowd," one eyewitness from Ismailia told Reuters on Saturday.
The Centre for Trade Union and Workers’ Services released a statement criticising the manner that the military police forcefully dispersed protesting workers and that a member of the syndicate committee, Ali Sharaawi, was beaten by military police.
The employees had suspended their strike when promised that an agreement will be reached between them and the minister of manpower by 1 June. However, the strike was resumed 15 June when the agreement never materialised.
A worker told Ahram Online that the Suez Canal Authority consultant had told the demonstrating workers on Saturday that they will not be given the promised raises, a statement which triggering anger.
According to the un-signed agreement, the base salary of the workers would have witnessed a raise by shifting 40 per cent of the bonus to the base salary.
A canal authority official told Reuters that shipping in the sea lane, a vital conduit for oil exports and one of the most important sources of foreign currency for Egypt, was not affected.
Most of the work of the seven companies involved in the strike doesn't influence the canal’s waterway. The workers of the three companies that have some connection with the waterway announced only a partial strike. The seven companies number 8,600 workers and are located in the three Suez Canal cities; Suez, Ismailiya and Port Said.
Suez Canal employees were among the civil servants and workers who went on strike across Egypt before the toppling of former president Hosni Mubarak on 11 February and played a pivotal role in building pressure during the revolution.