Four arrested as Egypt microbus strike enters second day

Ahram Online, Wednesday 3 Oct 2012

On second day of microbus strike demanding reduction in fuel prices and fines, four drivers arrested by security forces when clashes break out at protest opposite traffic police headquarters in Cairo

Egypt microbus strike
Egypt microbus strike in the greater Cairo area, 3 October 2012 (Photo: Al-Ahram)

Four striking microbus workers were detained following clashes with Egypt's security forces in front of Cairo's traffic police headquarters in Cairo, Wednesday, as the microbus partial strike enters its second day.

Drivers, who are demanding a reduction in diesel prices, an end to fuel shortages and a reduction in traffic violation fines, were staging a protest outside the government building when they were forcibly cleared, Helwan strike coordinator Khaled El-Gamasy told Ahram Online.

Eighteen were initially incarcerated, including El-Gamasy, after the strikers blocked off Saleh Salam Street adjacent to the police headquarters. The 14 who were released refused to leave the area until their colleagues were released, El-Gamasy added.

"Before the attack, the traffic attorney-general asked for 10 strikers to meet him in his office to negotiate their demands," El-Gamasy said. "Now that we have been subject to assault and a number of our vehicles destroyed there is no way we are going to end this strike without our demands being met."

Earlier Wednesday, El-Gamasy had explained to Al-Ahram Arabic newspaper that Helwan workers were forced to take industrial action after tariffs imposed on microbus drivers rose from LE320 to LE1000 following the January 25 Revolution.

The drivers consequently held a strike on 11-12 September.

"We postponed the previous one after promises from the government that the demands will be taken seriously, however, these demands were not even considered, " El-Gamasy added. "This time nothing will break these drivers who feel that they have to fight to maintain the minimum bread and butter."

"They are demonising us and are telling people that we are the reason of all the traffic problems in Cairo" added one of the drivers, standing in Salah Salem Street, "we are alone in this."

Those on strike are expected to meet Wednesday night to discuss the future of the strike, El-Gamasy confirmed.

Across the capital, even microbus drivers not joining in the industrial action expressed their solidarity with the strikers and their grievances.

"The strike is good of course, we're unable to pay the endless high fines imposed on us and we can't even find diesel," downtown Cairo microbus owner Mohamed Orabi told Ahram Online, adding that gas stations were selling fuel for more than it is worth.

Orabi, who said he did not join the strike as he believes "the people shouldn't have to pay," explained that drivers are also demanding the installation of pick-up points specifically set aside for microbus drivers, in order to avoid fines given by the police for "causing traffic jams."

In response to the ongoing strike, on Wednesday, Cairo Governor Osama Kamal confirmed to Al-Ahram daily that he would hold talks with Egypt's general-prosecutor Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud to look into the drivers' complaints.

In addition, Public Transportation Authority engineer Mona Mostafa told the state-owned newspaper that additional vehicles have been provided by the government as a temporary solution to the reduced microbus service. 

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