The Egyptian campaign “We Want to Live” launched its first conference in Cairo on Friday, with its members asserting their determination to face what they called the “harsh attack on the living conditions of working people” caused by the government’s recent economic reforms.
The campaign was launched in December by a number of political and union forces to fight the “impoverishing policies and the recent economic decisions taken by the government and the central bank.”
The campaign decided at the Friday conference to form local committees in different governorates, syndicates and universities to find alternatives to the government’s economic policies.
The conference was attended by representatives from labour and professional syndicates, independent unions, and representatives of political parties and movements including the Constitution Party, the Bread and Freedom Party, and the 6 April Movement.
The campaign asserts that the recent decision by the central bank to float the local currency – and the ensuing hike in prices for goods and services – puts economic burdens on citizens with medium and low incomes.
The campaign says that although the government had other options that were more “just and responsible”, it chose a path that is "harmful to millions of Egyptians and jeopardises and their ability to provide basic needs for themselves."
We Want to Live accuses the government of “siding with top businessmen and using oppressive tactics against any labour movement, including putting [their members] on trial and banning independent unions.”
The conference organisers said that they aim to push for an increase in wages, pensions and insurance, independence for unions and the right to organise, and the availability of affordable medicines.
They also aim to build solidarity with labour movements and support workers that have been fired; campaign for the provision of necessary work equipment and social and health insurance for farmers and fishermen; and advocate for the implementation of constitutional guarantees regarding health, education and scientific research.
“[Egyptians’ salaries have] lost at least half their value, [and there has been an] increase in the cost of farming, tuition fees, and hardships for day labourers and pensioners,” the statement said.
The campaign also asserted its rejection of the government's deal with Saudi Arabia to hand over control to the Gulf country the Red Sea islands Tiran and Sanafir.
Campaign member and secretary of farmers and workers at the Egyptian Social Democratic Party Moheb Aboud told Ahram Online that the campaign is mainly composed of 35 labour syndicates and is backed by a number of political forces.
“The government is undermining the economic demands of the people, and ignoring the severe and rapid deterioration [caused by] their economic decisions,” Aboud said, adding that the campaign will be working to achieve its goals through three committees; the work and wages committee, the medicine and health insurance committee, and the labour committee.
“Our work will be decentralized, we have studies and draft laws to be submitted to the government, as well as projects concerning work regulating, education, taxes and wages,” Aboud said.
“We will hold conferences around Egypt to gain public support, and we will organise all syndicate workers to hold peaceful protest actions to call for fair wages,” Aboud concluded.