The last resort

Gamal Abdel-Gawad , Tuesday 29 Mar 2011

As participants in the state, we are all affected when public sector workers are moved to strike

I agree to regulating the right to demonstrate and strike and disapprove of criminalising it. Regulating the right to strike is more important than merely deciding its hours; it includes the location, number of participants, duration, the sponsors and which legitimate power represents protesters when it is time to negotiate.

Strikes around the world have rules which regulate them, and laws do not allow workers and employees to go on strike at any time without prior notice. When workers strike it is like using a weapon of mass destruction, which is why they do so only after exhausting all avenues for negotiation and other less devastating pressure tools.

Currently, a group can demonstrate or go on strike anywhere, at any time and for any period of time without belonging to an entity or institution that can be negotiated with. People around the world demonstrate in squares and streets when they are protesting a public cause that interests a large number of people, but limit protests to near their workplace or concerned bodies when their grievances are more specific.

In Egypt, people demonstrate inside the workplace or any other location they choose, without any regulation. If you were to visit the Egyptian state television headquarters, you would find the walls and columns of the main lobby covered in flyers, bulletins and signs as if it were a college campus. Groups, on occasion, crowd one of the corridors or halls shouting demands and grievances, resembling a riot more than a protest.

The laws around the world make a distinction between those employed by the private and public sector, in terms of exercising the right to strike. While those in the private sector cannot go on open-ended strikes as bankrupting their company would not serve their interests, states cannot close their doors and stop working even if they go bankrupt.

Project owners pay their employees from the profits they make, but the entire population pays the salaries of civil servants through taxes. Their problems and demands affect us all, whether negatively or positively, and we have every right to interfere and comment.

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