Monday, March 16, 2009

Egyptian Strikes

Hard economic times are causing labor unrest in Egypt:
"In mid-February, lorry drivers declared a five-day strike over provisions in a new traffic law banning articulated trailers. Days later, more than 40,000 privately owned pharmacies also staged a strike for several days to protest a government decision to apply taxes to pharmacies retroactively.

"Late February and early March saw more workers' actions. Lawyers called a strike protesting proposed legislation in parliament that called for increased court fees, while administrators employed by the ministry of education also declared a strike over unpaid bonuses. Most recently, on Mar. 5, employees at a newly privatised textile factory announced a strike after a dispute over profit-sharing. Education ministry administrators are still awaiting an official response to their demands.

"The other workers' actions, however, have succeeded in prising some limited gains from the government. After intervention by President Hosni Mubrak, truck drivers were given a longer grace period to comply with required safety standards. Pharmacists received promises from the state that the offensive tax regime would be reconsidered.

"Lawyers, too, received government assurances that the new draft law on court fees would be subject to re-evaluation. Textile workers have kept up their strike, although they received a degree of satisfaction after the new owner of the formerly state-owned company, citing financial losses, offered to return the firm to Egyptian public ownership."

Will all this affect the regime's stability? Probably not, as the government usually knows how much and when to give, and there is no credible alternative that could serve as a unifying anti-regime banner.



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