24 November, 2009

Blog break

The blog isn't dead, but I'm doing a lot of travelling these days so don't expect any updates for a few more weeks...

13 November, 2009

Kamal abu Eita defends RETA union against campaign in state-controlled meida

According to a statement form the Center for Social and Economic Rights (via the Center for Socialist Studies and Hossam al-Hamalawy) the independent Union of Real Estate Tax Authority Employees has been subject to a "smear campaign" by the state-owned papers al-Ahram and al-Gomhoriyya, claiming that there has been "mass resignations" from the free union. The head of the RETA union, Kamal abu Eita, has demanded the right to reply to these statements in a letter to the editors of both papers. In the letter, he states that in fact, the number of members of the free union continues to rise and has now reached 40.000, and that a new local union committee has just been formed in South Sinai. According to Kamal abu Eita, the free union now has a local presence in 29 governorates, whereas the state-controlled union only exists in 9.

10 November, 2009

Work Camps in The Negev?

From Haaretz: "The government is considering establishing work camps in the south of the country, where illegal migrant workers will receive shelter, food and medical care, Army Radio reported Wednesday. In exchange, illegal migrants would perform manual labor outside the camps, but would not earn a salary. They would stay at the camp until their asylum claims are decided, which could take months or years. The proposal, part of the effort to address the problems posed by illegal migrants, would place asylum seekers at jobs in communities in the Negev and Arava. Their salaries would go to the state, in order to fund the camps."

Work camps where the state takes the salary? Am I the only one thinking "slave labour" here?

06 November, 2009

The Populist

Here's a few videos of protestors getting beaten up in Teheran on November 4, nicely followed up by this interesting quote from a story where Ahmadinejad offers his view on social justice (via Ali Esbati):

The three economists listened attentively to Ahmadinejad as he lectured on the waste caused by current subsidization policies and the fact that because of artificial prices any investment was hardly justifiable. He told his audience that a free market was the "best distribution system to guarantee social justice."

It does add some perspective to the argument that the current political confrontation in Iran somehow pits political liberties against economic justice because Ahmadinejad promised to bring the oil wealth to the dinner tables in his election campaign. I'm not an expert on Iran in anyway, but perhaps this is a sign that Ahmadinejad, having failed to mobilize the poorer segments in support of his rule and realizing that the opposition has its strongest base among the urban middle class, decided to try and placate his opponents by posing as a neo-liberal?

05 November, 2009

Tanta Workers Continue Sit-In, Threaten Hunger Strike

Tadamon reports: 9 workers at Tanta Flax & Oils, who were fired after a strike last year, moved their sit-in from the headquarters of the General Union of Textile Workers to the factory grounds in Tanta, where around 1000 workers has been on strike since May. Earlier this week, an agreement was reached between the union and the company management, giving the workers a raise in meal allowances and retroactive payment of a yearly raise since 2007 on condition that they resume work on November 10. 

Workers fired during the strike has been offered early retirement with financial compensation of around 35,000 egyptian pounds. According to Tadamon, many workers are still refusing the terms of the agreement - the main reason being that it does not include re-hiring the 9 workers who were fired last year, despite previous court verdicts ordering the company to re-hire them.

The union initially supported the strike, but a majority of the workers refused to accept a previous agreement between the union and the management, and instead voted to continue their strike even as they were denied access to strike funds. The 9 workers are now threatening to start a hunger strike until their demands are met.

Update: As pointed out in the comments below, 50 workers who were fired during the strike had initially been promised 45,000 pounds each as compensation, but was suddenly told they would only get 35,000. Today, the two groups of workers (those fired during the previous strike and those during the last one) decided to join forces and occupied the factory, forcing security men and members of the management out while doing so, according to the center for socialist studies.   

04 November, 2009

Swedes against Islamophobia

As many Egyptians are becoming more cynical about facebook-activism, more than 200.000 Swedes (in a country of 9 million) has joined a facebook group protesting the right-wing party Sverigedemokraterna ("Swedish Democrats"), whose leader recently published an article describing islam and muslims as the gravest foreign threat against democracy in Sweden since the second world war. I don't think this is going to end islamophobia and racism in Sweden or prevent SD from reaching the parliament in the elections next year (polls show them hovering around the necessary 4 percent of the votes), but at least it's a way of giving inspiration and courage to all those who are prepared to take the fight.