Egyptian labour demand wage rises in joint protests

Egyptian labour groups demanded a big rise in the minimum wage on Saturday to cope with rising prices.

Egyptian labour demand wage rises in joint protests

Egyptian labour groups demanded a big rise in the minimum wage on Saturday to cope with rising prices, and some analysts said they could emerge as an influential force in national elections this year and next.

Hundreds of factory workers and office workers protested outside the offices where the Egyptian cabinet meets, to press demands for a national minimum wage of 1,200 Egyptian pounds ($217.9). It has been 35 pounds since 1984.

Last week Egypt's Administrative Court ruled the government must set a minimum wage that takes soaring prices into account, but did not set a figure. Protesters say the government seldom applies the court's rulings.

"All of Egypt's workforce has one, unified demand, and that is raising the national minimum wage of all workers to allow them to cope with the soaring prices" Ahmed Ezzat, labour lawyer from the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, told Reuters by telephone after the protest.

Inflation in Egypt was 12.8 percent in February, down from a peak of 23.6 percent in August 2008 caused by surging world commodity prices.

The government has previously handled isolated strikes swiftly, largely with concessions. But coordinated action could prove more problematic.

"This is the most diverse labour coalition to date, rallying white collar and blue collar workers for a national demand," Hossam Hamalawy, labour activist and blogger, told Reuters.

The government's initial response to protests which turned violent was to meet them with heavy security, then promises of higher wages.

"Egypt's workers are on the brink of explosion. They cannot find even plain bread and do not have real representation in their state unions," said textile worker Kamal Fayoumy.

Some political analysts say the protests could give birth to alliances with political parties ahead of parliamentary elections in 2010 and presidential elections in 2011.

"This protest is the first step to create a link among political reform movements and their social reform counterparts, an alliance that could make the labour movement in the next months a new political power that could play a vital role in elections," Mohamed Abdel Qoudous, political analyst and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, told Reuters.

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 04 Nisan 2010, 18:16

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