Cairo bus drivers (Photo by Bassam El-Zoghby)
Cairo bus drivers escalated a 3-day old strike on Wednesday, closing 22 garages out of 25 in the greater Cairo area.
Organisers of the action told Ahram Online from Mazallat and El-Teraa garages in the Shubra district that the number of striking garages could reach 25 out of the 25 by late afternoon.
Ahram Online reporters on the scene at El-Teraa garage say that Transport Authority police have barred journalists and photographers from entering depots in order to talk to striking drivers.
Forty thousand public transport drivers and ticket conductors started their strike action on Sunday by shutting down one garage in Cairo, and threatened to spread the work stoppage to the entire city if the Transport Authority did not meet their wage demands.
Drivers are calling for pay raises and other financial incentives in order to reach LE1200 per month, which is considered by most economists to be the minimum salary necessary for basic survival in Egypt.
Strikers aim to hit this living wage thresh by forcing the government to apply a promise it made to public employees to raise long-stagnant starting salaries by 200%.
They also want the PTA to issue a uniform for drivers and conductors, and upgrade the bus fleet in order to allow them to provide better services to the public.
On Tuesday, drivers believed that they have reached an agreement with the PTA after their representatives held a meeting with the Authority's president Mona Mostafa.
However, last night Mostafa announced on Hayat TV, a private satellite station, that the Authority would not concede to strikers' demands and described them as thugs.
Mostafa's comments prompted the Independent Union of Transport workers, which organises Cairo's drivers, to ask all garages to join the strike this morning.