Monday, September 09, 2013

Egypt's Labor Activism

Here's an update on Egyptian labor activism, a key driver of the Arab Spring in North Africa that hasn't really penetrated Western analyses.
The Egyptian Centre for Social Rights (ECESR) reported 1,400 collective worker actions in 2011 and nearly 2,000 in 2012. It cited 2,400 social and economic protests during the first quarter of 2013, which coincided with Morsi’s presidency.
Joel Beinin, professor of Middle East history at Stanford University argues that despite small concessions aimed at ending strikes, Morsi largely relied on the same apparatus to quash labour dissent, and proved no more willing than his predecessors to address its underlying causes. At the heart of the underlying causes lie gross inequalities...
Impoverished workers are protesting for better wages, job security, payment of overdue benefits, and a liveable minimum wage. They have also demanded to exercise the right to freedom of association as guaranteed by international labour treaties to which Egypt is a signatory.
Workers have organised into thousands of independent trade unions since Egypt’s 2011 uprising, but their legitimacy is challenged by Mubarak-era legislation that only recognises ETUF-affiliated syndicates...
Despite some promising signs, including the appointment of a veteran union organiser as labour minister, rights groups say the new regime is already shaping up to be a lot like its predecessors.
In August, security forces moved in to break up a month-long strike by steel mill workers protesting unpaid wages and bonuses. Days later, riot police forcefully put down a strike at a petroleum company over unpaid bonuses and intolerable working conditions.



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