A total of 385 labour strikes have occurred in the last three months, despite a harsh law to counter workers’ dissent, according to a recent study by El-Mahrousa Center for Socioeconomic Development (MCSD).
The study concluded that, since the beginning of 2015, a total of 778 strikes took place overall. The majority of the incidents occurred in mostly private sector factories and companies, while only 68 strikes took place in the public sector.
Government apparatuses included the Ministry of Religious Endowments, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Defence, and Al-Azhar. In the military related industrial or service sectors, strikes are rare, and are met with harsh physical crackdowns.
On 2 June, an army soldier allegedly opened fire on workers at a military-owned cement factory in the North Sinai town of Al-Arish, killing one and injuring several others, a factory worker said.
A worker in the factory told Daily News Egypt that a colleague, called Hesham Ramadan, was severely injured. When transferred to the factory’s clinic, he did not receive any medical assistance. As a result, “some of the workers protested in front of the administration’s offices. What followed was an army APC storming into the factory, and firing, killing one and injuring another three”.
The MCSD report added that other state institutions where strikes took place were the Ministry of Health, the Tax Authority, and the state TV authority.
The medical sector also witnessed several strikes demanding more economic rights and better working conditions.
Last Sunday, a group of doctors urged President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to develop Egypt’s healthcare system by drafting new laws to increase infection compensation from EGP 19 per month to EGP 1,000.
Strikes in Egypt are usually dispersed by force or by threats of suspension, and have acted as a main source of opposition to different governments.
However, a Cairo High Court ruled in May 2015 that any employee proven to have participated in a strike will be forced into retirement for “delaying the interests of the public”.
The court defined “striking” as any act of gathering by the workers, through which they halt all of the production process, while still being part of the workforce of the company or the institution.
The verdict came two days after Labour Day 2015 when the state-backed Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) presented Al-Sisi with a ‘code of conduct’ rejecting strikes. The code also encourages “dialogue with the government and business owners as a mechanism to achieve social justice”.
Meanwhile, the state and mainstream media repeatedly called on workers to refrain from striking and to increase “the wheels of production”. This would help achieve stability and security, using nationalistic rhetoric to argue that striking “would allow terrorists to capitalise”.
The MCSD report categorised strikes geographically, with Cairo taking first place with 151 strikes. However, it added that different cities also witnessed protests by workers.
Last month, 152 garbage collectors, drivers, and supervisors were referred to disciplinary committees after being charged with holding strikes.
The administrative prosecution said the workers violated the laws, as they “went on a strike for three days”, and described striking as a “crime”.
This was the first implementation of May’s High Cairo Court decision.