Cairo's public transport workers continue strike for minimum wage

Ahram Online, Sunday 23 Feb 2014

Public transport workers continue strike for a second day, demanding inclusion in the state's minimum wage scheme

Bus Station
Bus station deserted in September 2013 strike "Photo: Mai Shaheen"

Egypt’s public transport workers entered their second strike day Sunday, demanding inclusion in the state's LE1200 ($172) minimum wage scheme, Tarek El-Beheri, deputy chief of the Independent Workers' Syndicate for Public Transport Workers, told Ahram Online.

The wage scheme for public transport workers ranges between LE600 ($86) and LE1400 ($200), said El-Beheri.

All 24 garages in Greater Cairo are currently on strike, taking a toll on daily revenues with some LE800,000 ($115,000) in losses for the Public Transport Authority, reported the state-owned Al-Ahram news website.

“The government offered to pay us LE200 ($29) monthly for three months without categorising the payment. But we want LE400 ($48) per month in a permanent category,” said El-Beheri.

Workers are willing to suspend the strike if the government shows responsiveness, but will escalate their protests if no demands are met by involving maintenance workers, added El-Beheri.

The minimum wage scheme targets the state’s administrative apparatus and excludes state-owned businesses and independent economic authorities, such as the Public Transport Authority.

Independent economic authorities can implement the minimum wage if they want, but within their own budgets, Mesbah Qotb, finance minister advisor told Al-Ahram Arabic website.

“The authority is not generating enough revenue to raise our salaries due to the limited number of buses. Any raise would have to be paid by the government,” said El-Beheri.

The Public Transport Authority used to have 4,700 buses but in 2005, 2,000 of those were dispensed with for being outdated, and no new buses were added since then, according to El-Beheri.

Cairo's governor told the state-owned MENA news agency that the Public Transport Authority will receive 1,350 new buses in 2014.

Around 1.5 million employees of nine holding companies and 50 economic authorities make up the "business sector" entities that are regulated under Law 203 of 1991.

According to that law, the budgets of companies and authorities in the "business sector" are not included in the state budget, although they are technically state-owned.

Workers in several state-owned business have been striking for the past few weeks to demand their inclusion in the minimum wage scheme. 

The largest strike was staged in Mahalla Textile Company with 20,000 workers participating. Other companies, including Tanta Flax and Shebeen Weaving, have also been striking to demand their wage meet the minimum wage of LE1,200 ($172).

Mahalla textile workers were the first demonstrators calling for a national minimum wage at LE1,200 in 2008, in one of the largest anti-regime protests before former president Hosni Mubarak was deposed in 2011. They never received the minimum wage.

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