Transport services in the Cairo metropolitan area grind to halt as drivers strike for a third day, demanding higher salaries and that the board of directors be sacked (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
Cairo's transport workers are committing "an act of treason" by staging a strike, a top ranking official from Egypt's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) has declared.
"When workers of a vital service such as public transport decide to stop working, this is treason to the country," Sabry Amer, the head of the transportation committee in Egypt's now-dissolved parliament and member of the high commission of the Muslim Brotherhood's FJP, told Ahram Online.
Bus services ground to a halt at five garages in the capital while 22 others began partial strikes in a bid to force the CTA's attachment to Egypt's Ministry of Transport -- a move, workers say, that will boost their salaries and bonues.
Workers made the same demand during strikes in mid-2011, reaching a compromise agreement with CTA management. That, evidently, has not been enough.
"It is still the same. We want to be attached to the ministry of transportation to enjoy the public sector's pay raises," Ali Fatouh, a leader of the workers independent syndicate at the Cairo Transportation Authority (CTA) told Ahram Online on Sunday.
CTA workers have not received a 200 per cent pay increase granted to state workers last year, Fatouh claimed. Instead they have had a monthly LE200 rise.
Fatouh also complained that the government was ignoring their demands.
Amer, who was involved with CTA workers in their negotiation with the government earlier in 2012, was very critical of the strike.
He said that stopping public transportation, which millions of citizens depend on, is unacceptable as it harms people who have nothing to do with the workers' cause.
Seeking to resolve the situation, Amer and workers met with representatives of parliament's upper house (Shura Council) but to no avail.
"We told the workers that all the proper government channels are open to them to address their problems, but striking is not the proper way," Amer continued his criticism.
He called on the government to take proper action against the strike which he described as "criminal."
"It is not the right of anyone to cripple a public service," Amer added. "This is illegal.
"If the decision was mine, I would have taken the necessary measures to deter such actions in the future."
He said that he is not suggesting that the government have a security confrontation with strikers, but rather find those instigating the strike and apply the law to them.
The government seems to have listening to Amer's views. Tarek El-Behairy, head of CTA's independent worker's syndicate, was arrested on Monday and is charged of inciting workers to strike.
"Nobody from the government contacted us. This is starting to look like Ahmed Nazif's government," he added, referring to a much-maligned prime minister from the Hosni Mubarak era.