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Egyptian govt drops military service threat for striking drivers

Egypt's government withdrew a decree aimed at forcing striking rail workers to resume driving trains under the auspices of military service

Ahram Online , Wednesday 10 Apr 2013
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Egypt's transportation ministry on Wednesday withdrew a decision to call up a group of striking railway workers for military service within the railway division of the Egyptian armed forces, a situation which would have forced them to resume driving trains under the auspices of military service or appear in front of a military tribunal.

A strike by railway drivers and workers demanding pay improvements and maintenance for railway equipment and infrastructure was launched on Saturday, bringing a halt to railways services nationwide that lasted through Monday.

Egypt's Railway Authority announced the resumption of transport activity on Tuesday after workers responded to promises by the authority to grant better benefits to the striking workers, the authority said.

Workers, however, accused authorities of intervening to abort the strike. The Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) hosted a press conference on Tuesday where workers spoke out against the measures taken by the government in calling them up to perform their military service.

All Egyptian adult men who have at least one brother are subject to mandatory military conscription. After between 1 and 3 years of being drafted, a soldier is released from military service but may be called back to military ranks in periods of public mobilisation.

The ECESR filed a case against the government on Tuesday arguing that calling up the workers for military service is illegal, claiming that conscripts should only be called in periods of public mobilisation during wartime or extreme national emergencies, none of which Egypt is currently undergoing.

The ECESR, which was co-founded by prominent labour lawyer and former presidential candidate Khalid Ali, saw the withdrawal of the governmental decree as a victory for railway workers.

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