01 February, 2009

Railway union "grateful" - workers vow continued struggle

The announced train strike did not take place today. Instead, officials from the state-controlled union had hung banners in the train station, expressing their gratitude towards the management and the ministry of transport for "agreeing to the demands of the union" (pic above).

At the drivers rest-house, two representatives of the union said there was no need for another strike since there is now "open channels of communication" between the union and the ministry of transport. They also argued that strikes should be avoided since they hurt the country and the passengers, and that the workers have to consider the financial cirumstances of the company and the state. (A valid point, of course, but given the fact that the Egyptian economy has been growing by around 7 percent annually for a few years now, resulting in a explosion of luxury consumption and an unbelievable boom of luxury villas and gated communities around Cairo, I think it's also fair for the workers to ask why they should put up with becoming poorer every day, while risking their lives driving poorly maintained trains.)

According to the decree that was issued on Thursday, the lowest paid workers will receive an additional allowance of 50 pounds, or 75 in the case of drivers. However, it will not be paid until July this year, and then only half of it. This means that for many of the workers the pay raise amounts to less than 1 pound per day - if the decree is ever implemented, that is. Taking inflation into account, their real wages will probably continue to decrease this year, even with the promised raise.

The drivers are not satisfied, of course. Their minimum demand had been that any raise should be paid immediately, for the simple reason that they have no guarantees whatsover that any decision taken now will actually be implemented six months later (there is already a number of similiar decrees dating years back that has never been implemented). One driver told Sarah Carr from Daily News over phone that workers are going to meet in the coming days to discuss further action.

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