01 February, 2009

State union and security collaborate to prevent strike

An interesting detail slipped my mind when I wrote my previous post. As we were talking to the union representatives and a group of workers outside the drivers rest-house, one of the drivers started talking about the signal operators and other workers that were supposed to go on strike today. He had barely finished a sentence when he was silenced by the others, aggressively telling him to shut up. It seemed to me that they were over-reacting, as the man was only telling us what we already knew. But after reading this report in el-Badeel, their reaction makes more sense: According to the report, several labour activists were arrested by state security yesterday and pressure was excerted on many others in an attempt to prevent today's strike. This security intervention, then, was probably the subject they [the union officials] wanted to avoid.

This sums up the state of the official union structure in Egypt pretty well: Union representatives celebrate victory and express gratitude towards management, taking credit for tiny gains that would never have been achieved without strike action that they themselves opposed from the beginning, while militant workers are detained by state security...

Pic above: A representative of the railway workers union and General Saad Zaghloul, chief of the train station police force, try to convince drivers to end their strike on 20 January.

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