3 Oct 2011

Egypt's drivers declare indefinite sit-in

Cairo, Egypt
Transport authority workers will continue their sit-in outside the Cabinet’s offices after Saturday night’s failed government negotiations. Around a thousand striking transport workers from across Cairo have been demonstrating on Qasr El-Aini Street, one of the city’s major thoroughfares, and Maglis Al-Shaab Street, the seat of Egypt’s Parliament.

The strikers are maintaining their resolve, displaying no signs of fatigue. Scenes in front of the Cabinet have in fact bordered on celebratory. Protesters, for instance, have been standing atop buses, beating on drums and chanting against Sharaf and Minister of Manpower Ahmed Hassan El-Boraei.
The government’s intransigence, according to many workers, has galvanised strikers even more. Many have complained that the Cabinet has been playing games with them and refusing to take them seriously. “We are human beings, we are also parents. We want to serve the public, but the government doesn’t want to take us seriously,” a 21-year veteran bus driver exclaimed.

Workers told Ahram Online that they woke up on Sunday morning to report to work believing the government had agreed to their demands as State TV and various media outlets announced the night before. However, the independent union had in fact not signed the agreement, as the terms reportedly presented a setback rather than a step forward.
After buses from 14 garages out of 24 began the morning shift drivers were informed there was no deal. Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s Cabinet announced that it had allocated the LE128 million needed to meet the transport workers demands for wage restructuring and end of service bonuses but the drivers say that they realised only half this amount was really allocated. 
Also, the offer, according to the striking workers, came with punitive and inhumane conditions. The drivers, for example, currently work 20 days per month. The Cabinet’s offer, however, demanded that workers clock-in 26 days per month in order to qualify for the wage adjustments.

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