by Anne Alexander
Leading activists in the Egyptian workers’ movement, representing tens of thousands of striking workers, met in Cairo last Saturday.
They agreed a common programme of demands and to co-ordinate further action.
“It is our opinion that if this revolution does not lead to the fair distribution of wealth it is not worth anything,” they said in a statement released after the meeting.
“Freedoms are not complete without social freedoms. The right to vote is naturally dependent on the right to a loaf of bread.”
The programme goes beyond even the most far-reaching demands raised in waves of strikes in the years before Hosni Mubarak’s fall.
In addition to calling for a rise in the national minimum wage, the workers demand that the maximum wage should be no more than 15 times the minimum wage.
The struggles of fixed-term workers are reflected in the programme, which calls for a complete end to temporary contracts, and job security for all manual and clerical workers, peasants and professionals.
A key demand is the dissolution of the state Egyptian Trade Union Federation, which was a central pillar of the old ruling party and Mubarak’s regime.
The programme also calls for:
- “Renationalisation of all privatised enterprises and a complete stop to the infamous privatisation programme.”
“Complete removal of corrupt managers who were imposed on companies in order to run them down and sell them off.”
“Curbing the employment of consultants who are past the age of retirement and who eat up three billion of the national income, in order to open up employment opportunities for the young.”
“Return to the enforcement of price controls on goods and services in order to keep prices down and not burden the poor.”
“The right of Egyptian workers to strike, organise sit-ins, and demonstrate peacefully, including those striking now against the remnants of the failed regime.”
Several of the signatories are members of unions that founded a new, independent trade union federation in Tahrir Square on 25 January.
Workers from the sugar refineries in Al-Fayyum and Hawamidiyya, public transport, Tura Cement Co, pharmaceutical workers, postal workers, employees in the Umar Effendi department store, and representatives of the Property Tax collectors were among the 40 representatives at the meeting.
This declaration is an important step, as it brings together a powerful group of trade union activists to assert their determination to achieve the revolution’s social goals.
Nothing approaching this level of co-ordination between strike leaders has been achieved in Egypt for decades, and their demands look far beyond the current capitalist system.
Suez: battles intensify
Suez experienced a taste of the struggles to come last Sunday, when an armoured vehicle belonging to the military police killed a woman as the authorities broke up a strike by port workers.
Striking workers were arrested, in the first attempt to enforce the military’s ban on strikes.
Police killed the woman as relatives and neighbours of the arrested workers gathered in protest.
The uprising in Suez was among the fiercest and most effective in Egypt, falling into the control of the demonstrators soon after 25 January.
The killing has sent shockwaves of anger through the country.