Powerful strike wave in Egypt challenges neoliberalism

Rail workers in the Egyptian capital Cairo have struck for higher wages. Over 700 railway drivers went on strike at Cairo’s Misr train station on Saturday of last week.

The Cairo underground metro drivers slowed down their trains in solidarity. The strike follows a similar dispute in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

Up to 4,000 rail workers have threatened a national strike unless their demands are met.

Rail workers are angry at the non-payment of bonuses – that make up the bulk of wages – to drivers who cannot work due to illness.

Over the last few months Egypt has been gripped by a wave of strikes that have spread from textile mills to hospitals, cement factories, shipyards and municipalities.

Some 14,000 textile workers in the town of Mahala al-Kubra recently signed a petition demanding the impeachment of their 21-member factory union committee, which is dominated by union bureaucrats with close ties to the security services.

The workers are angry at union officials who they say attempted to sabotage their victorious strike against privatisation last December.

The workers have warned that if their demands are not met they will form a new union in the factory, independent to the state-dominated General Federation for Trade Unions.

At the heart of the new militancy are 27,000 workers in the Ghazl El-Mahalla textile factory, probably the biggest factory in Egypt.

They were involved in strikes in December led mainly by young workers in their 20s and 30s. Women played a central role in the strike.

Up to 500 Egyptian hospital workers struck over the non payment of wages on Thursday of last week. Rubbish collectors also demonstrated against intimidation by a private company.

The following should be read alongside this article:
» Plans in place for biggest Cairo Conference against war yet