CAIRO: Egyptian teachers embarked Sunday on the second day of a nationwide general strike, demanding the dismissal of Education Minister Ahmed Gamal El-Din Moussa, a minimum wage of LE 3,000 and the promised 200 percent reward incentive without cuts.
Simultaneously, doctors and workers in Egypt’s public transportation sector as well as a number of factories were also on strike demanding better working conditions, wages and voicing criticism of management.
The teachers’ strike saw more than 60 percent participation, according to Khaled Ali, director of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR).
"Governorates like Port Said, Kafr El-Sheikh, Suez, South Cairo, South Sinai and Qena witnessed a full strike, while partial strikes occurred in Central Cairo, Qaliubiya, Luxor, Beni Suef, Tanta, Giza and Aswan," Shaimaa Said, coordinator of the general strike operations room, told Daily News Egypt.
Moussa had ruled out the success of the planned strike, saying he would be happy to be relieved of responsibilities at the ministry and that he trusts teachers’ sense of responsibility toward their students and public interest.
"Teachers sought all legitimate means to achieve demands through the Independent Teachers’ Syndicate, negotiating with the Ministry of Education and protested to reiterate their demands but to no avail — so they had to strike," a report published by the Center for Socialist Studies said.
According to a report published by the People’s Alliance Socialist Party, Kafr El-Sheikh’s deputy education minister threatened striking teachers with arrest, as teachers in Tanta were reportedly threatened by security forces to end their strike.
Moussa previously said, "What was said about me depriving teachers of deserved incentives are total lies; I have been continuously pressuring the minister of finance and prime minister for teachers to receive reward incentives like other government workers."
"We formed a committee and agreed with Cabinet that the PM will issue a decision to pay teachers an extra incentive according to their status," he added.
Workers and doctors
“Workers use the same slogans as those of Tahrir … but referring to the mini-Mubaraks they have in their firms,” journalist and activist with the Revolutionary Socialists Hossam El-Hamalawy told DNE.
"Those workers are not simply demanding extra wages like what the media is trying to propagate — they are fighting corruption and turning the economic struggle to a political one," he added.
The doctors’ strike entered day eight, expanding to include emergency departments, which spurred scuffles between patients and doctors in many hospitals.
Presidential hopeful Mohamed ElBaradei urged Minister of Health Amr Helmy on Saturday during a meeting between his campaign members and the minister to achieve the demands of Egyptian doctors in an initiative called "Doctors’ Rights and Dignity."
"The meeting ended with a promise from Helmy to acknowledge the legitimacy of the strike and end the harassment practiced against striking doctors by some ministry officials," said a statement released by ElBaradei’s campaign following the meeting.
Doctors are demanding the improvement of health services in Egypt, raising the health sector share in the budget from 3.5 percent to 15 percent and restructuring the sectors’ salaries and wages system.
Helmy announced earlier a plan to raise the salaries of doctors and others working in the health sector, involving new legislation which entails directing part of the revenues into bonuses and salaries while upholding the rights of patients.
Last month, Helmy announced that a total of LE 940 million will be allocated to salary reform in the medical sector, which will go into increasing the salaries for doctors, dentists, pharmacists and nurses.
Doctors reportedly received the August salary without any of the promised incentives, which incited them to call for a general strike on Sept 10.
Public transportation workers continued a partial strike in El-Mazalat Main Garage, demanding bonuses. Calls for a complete general strike were canceled after the Ministry of Transportation answered some of the demands.
Also on Sunday, 1,200 workers in Ideal factories entered the fifth day of their strike, demanding their share of the deal between the factories owner Saad Sallam to a Swedish company worth around LE 2.5 billion.
Sweden’s Electrolux recently acquired a controlling stake in Egypt’s appliance maker Olympic Group, which owns Ideal Zanussi. Saad Eldin Abdullah Sallam is the chairman of Paradise Capital, the parent company of Olympic Group.
"Sallam bought the factories from the government years ago in deal worth of LE 315 million, now he sold the factories to a Swedish company at LE 2.7 billion. He was obliged by the government to give workers 1 percent share of the deal," worker Mohamed Anwar told DNE.
"Every worker then should be given LE 4,000 but Sallam is reluctant to give us our money, so we had to strike to call for our rights granted by the government," Anwar added.
Workers in sugar refineries in Arment, Luxor were also on strike for the sixth day as the governorate’s military commander threatened to forcibly end the strike, following accusations by the factories’ CEO and member of the dissolved National Democratic Party (NDP) Hassan Kamel on Mehwar channels against the workers of serving foreign agendas.
"Thousands of workers continue to strike in the Upper Egyptian sugar refineries over pay, work conditions, as well as purging the management from the remnants of Mubarak’s regime,” El-Hamalawy told DNE.
“The strikers also accused management of clientalism to the US and Israel, and chanted for ‘open strikes until the fall of the regime’,” he added.