10 May, 2009

Labour minister denies impact of crisis on Egypt

This is reassuring for the tens of thousands of Egyptian workers that have lost their jobs in the textile industry and other sectors since November (i personally visited factories that laid off more than half of their workforce): Aisha abd el-Hady, minister of manpower, assures us that Egypt has not been affected by the international economic crisis, thanks to the "wise policies" of Hosni Mubarak! She also said (during a speech at the Workers' University in Nasr City this morning) that strikes are a legitimate response of workers after negotiations failed - but urged workers not to be impatient, since "collective bargaining" is the way to social peace in Egypt. Makes me wonder what she means by collective bargaining: Does she refer to workers talking to state security about their economic demands - or perhaps they should rather negotiate with state-appointed union officials? Or should they actually be allowed to form their own unions to act as their true representatives in talks with employers?

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