11 August, 2009

Tax Collectors Repeat Historical Sit-in

Egypt's real estate tax collectors have begun a strike in defense of their independent unionHossam el-Hamalawy is twittering from their sit-in in Hussein Hegazy street outside the cabinet, where hundreds are chanting against the state-controlled unions - just like they did for 11 days some 20 months ago.

This reminds me of a remark made by Kamal Abu Eita, the head of the free union, during a conference organized by Tadamon just before I left Egypt in June: "Everyone is saying that we created the first independent union in Egypt since 1957. But every union is independent, and controlled by it's members - if it isn't, it's not a union. So we have in fact established the first union in Egypt since the 50'

Given the extent of state manipulation and control of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation I believe this statement was correct. When security intervenes to purge "radical" workers from even the lowest levels of the union hierarchy, which often happened in the last union elections in 2006, unions cease to be unions and turn into branches of the state.

This is why this is probably going to be an intense confrontation, where more is at stake than the fight over who is going to control the social fund - the final outcome this struggle may determine the viability of the future existence of the only real union in Egypt.

UPDATE: Hossam uploaded some pics here, and will post continuous updates and links (English and Arabic) here.

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