Sunday, June 27, 2010

Egypt's Opposition

Prompted by the beating death of Khaled Said in Alexandria, several thousand protesters rallied around Muhammad el-Baradei Friday demanding an end to Egypt's police state. The press coverage is there, but the current round of protests seems a bit like the Kefaya movement of 2005, which accomplished absolutely nothing, and I can't see el-Baradei's presence alone changing that.

Of perhaps greater long-term interest to me is the ongoing labor activism:
"Since 1998 over 2 million workers have participated in more than 3,300 factory occupations, strikes, demonstrations, or other collective actions protesting low wages, non-payment of bonuses, wage supplements, and social benefits, and private investors' failure to uphold their contractual obligations to their workers. The protests spiked sharply since the Nazif government accelerated the pace of privatization of public-sector enterprises in 2004. According to a recent report published by the Solidarity Center, The Struggle for Worker Rights in Egypt, privatization has usually meant less job security, longer hours, and a lower standard of social services for workers, while ETUF rarely defends their interests.

"The character of worker protests has been changing since late March. Supported by NGOs like the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services and the recently established Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, a growing number of workers, are coalescing around the demand for a national monthly minimum wage of 1,200 Egyptian pounds(about $215). That proposal was first advanced in 2008 by workers at the giant Misr Spinning and Weaving Co., in the Nile Delta. Security forces prevented Misr workers from striking in support of this demand on April 8, 2008."

If push comes to shove, the regime can easily give in to these demands and diffuse the movement. What would be striking is some sort of merger between the labor activism and those calling for political reform, but that doesn't seem to be happening.



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