File photo: Teachers hold sit-in on 10 Spetmber threatening to go on strike if demands are not met.(Photo: Randa Ali)
On the first day of the new academic year, and the eve of the school year, Egypt is witnessing what appears to be the beginning of a wave of strikes. Many university workers and bus drivers have declared the beginning of a strike, sending out a call for others to join.
Workers of Egypt's Cairo, Beni Soueif, Fayoum, Banha and Damanhour universities started an open-ended strike Saturday, confirmed Haitham Mohamadein of the Federation of Independent Trade Union, speaking to Ahram Online.
The Coalition of University Workers had already released a statement last Tuesday declaring they would start a strike on the first day of the university year: 15 September for some and 16 September for others. The coalition further stated it would be hold an open-ended sit-in at the Cabinet headquarters building in downtown Cairo starting Tuesday, 18 September.
The demands put forward by workers include protecting the legal position of university workers by incorporating them under the University Organisation Law No 49 of 1972, providing university workers with the right to elect heads of universities and giving workers the right to attend the meetings of the Supreme Council of Universities.
Other demands put forward include that all university deputies are chosen by elections and not appointment, for all temporary workers to be given permanent contracts, for bonuses to increase to LE2000, LE1500, LE1000, LE750 depending on seniority, increasing overtime pay by 50 per cent, increasing incentive rewards by 400 per cent, and increasing exam bonuses to a 600 working days pay instead of 450.
Meanwhile, drivers of two public bus stations, that of Giza's Imbaba district and Cairo's Mazalat Station located in the district of Shubra, also declared the beginning of a strike for higher wages. Other stations are expected to follow suit after the end of the first day's shift at 2pm, according to Mohamadein.
Earlier last week, school teachers threatened to go on strike starting the first day of school, Sunday, if their demands are not met. Teachers say they want higher wages and permanent contracts. It is not known whether they will indeed strike tomorrow or not.
Egypt in recent years has witnessed an increase in labour strikes, especially after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. Mass strikes are also believed to have played an important role in the buildup to the January 25 Revolution and in the final departure of Mubarak 11 February 2011.