Egypt not yet on strike

Ahram Online, Saturday 11 Feb 2012

A nation-wide call for general strikes on the anniversary of former president Hosni Mubarak's ouster is thwarted by workers' reluctance to participate, although more expected to join on Sunday

Cairo university
Cairo university (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

Reports show few organisations have participated in 11 February general strike, despite nation-wide calls for industrial action from workers' unions, political groups and student unions. However, since Saturday is for many an extension of the weekend, it is still not known how successful the call for a general strike may become.

There are conflicting reports about public sector strikes.  According to the Centre for Trade Union and Workers Services, employees and drivers of Egypt's underground metro have started a slowdown strike.  However the Minister of Transportation made statement on Saturday early afternoon confirming that all public transportation was functioning regularly.  

Airport workers have reportedly not answered calls for a national strike neither have the Suez Canal workers. In addition no major factories have declared industrial action.

The Real Estate Registration and Documentation Department, under the Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for all affairs relating to the sale, rent, and inheritance of residential, commercial and agricultural real estate, also ran normally on Saturday. This department is one of the few governmental bureaus to remain open on a Saturday, which is usually part of the weekend. 

The Centre for Trade Union and Workers Services confirmed a few instances of strike action. The Nage Hamadi aluminum plant in Upper Egypt is planning to join the national strike following the Saturday 3pm shift.  

Around 700 health workers have also reportedly started a strike in Qena. In addition, several truck drivers blocked the Kafr Daoud road into Sadat city early Saturday morning in solidarity with the strike, hindering the work of the city's factories, although most are not operating because Saturday is a weekend. 

Some sectors have declared that they are still discussing whether or not to join the strikes. Kamal El-Fayoumi, trade unionist from Mahala Spinning and Weaving Factory, told Ahram Online that workers at his factory are undecided.

El-Fayoumi explained that since none of the factory's demands have been met, despite a year of negotiations, they are considering joining the call to strike. He also added that they are planning a demonstration in solidarity with the national industrial action at the end of their Saturday shift. Meanwhile, workers at the Ministry of Agriculture forestation sector have already declared they will be starting strike on Sunday.

Although Saturday is part of the weekend for most schools, this is not the case for several Catholic schools who take Sunday off instead. Dozens of students from these academic institutions led marches on Saturday against military rule instead of attending classes.

Students from eight different schools, including Jesuites, Sacre Coeur, Mere de dieu, College de la Salle, Notre Dame, Saint-Anne, Ramses College, New Ramses College and German School in Bab El-Louq, marched together with several teachers and parents demanding that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) hands over power to a civilian government.

Several universities have also planned marches in solidarity with the call to strike. Hundreds of students demonstrated at Cairo University, Ains Shams University, Alexandria University and Assiut University. However, Ahram Online reporter observed that some students still attended classes.

Thirty university student unions announced earlier they would be taking part in the general strike, including Cairo University, Helwan University, the Modern Academy, Alexandria University, Ain Shams University, Nile University and the American University in Cairo (AUC). However, not all will be starting strike on Saturday as it is a day off for many. 

The Egypt Revolutionaries' Alliance — which brings together over 50 political groups, including the country’s six most prominent revolutionary movements — along with university and school students and independent workers’ unions are the main campaigners for the initiative. The call for a general strike on the anniversary of former president Hosni Mubarak's ouster is meant to pressure SCAF to hand over power to a civil government.

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