Striking Egyptian Workers Want Salaries Doubled
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
And we're also following Egypt, where you might've thought the protests were over. A growing number of workers are going on strike despite pleas by the Egyptian military government that they return to work. The government complains that the labor unrest is deepening Egypt's financial crisis that was brought on by the popular revolt. But the workers say they have no intention of giving up. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has the story.
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Mailmen were the latest government workers to go on strike this week. Dozens of them shout slogans and wave placards outside this large post office in downtown Cairo. Among the strike leaders is Abdel Magid.
ABDEL MAGID: (Foreign language spoken)
SARHADDI NELSON: They and most other government and private sector workers who are striking across Egypt want their salaries doubled or more. They claim they are owed far more than what they are asking, given the rising cost of living and the few raises they received during Hosni Mubarak's 30- year rule.
AHMED HAMDI: (Foreign language spoken)
SARHADDI NELSON: Local postal union leader Ahmed Hamdi says his members haven't had a raise in nine years. He adds a previous strike and talks with government officials only led to his being detained by Egypt's feared state security forces.
HAMDI: (Foreign language spoken)
SARHADDI NELSON: That's more or less what happened to public transit in this sprawling capital. The strike has made it difficult for students to get to school and non-striking workers to get to their jobs.
ALI MOHAMMED: (Foreign language spoken)
SARHADDI NELSON: He says corruption and Mubarak's drive toward privatization led to a wide gap between Egypt's elite and the rest of society. Elnaggar says many Egyptians are only taking home about $20 a month.
AHMED ELNAGGAR: Could your cat and your dog live with such amount of money? It's not human. It's not fair. They must look to those workers as human.
SARHADDI NELSON: He claims even during the ongoing crisis, the Egyptian government can afford to increase the minimum wage like many protestors are demanding. Elnaggar believes that even with a better-paid work force, Egypt will still attract foreign investors and business here, because as a democracy, there will be more accountability and far less corruption.
ELNAGGAR: Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)
SARHADDI NELSON: But many strikers, like these municipal transit workers, want more than higher wages. They want to be annexed to the national government, which offers better benefits and job security. Not that all national government workers are happy, either. Earlier, police officers marched on the Interior Ministry, demanding their own pay increase.
MUSTAFA BASYOUNI: (Foreign language spoken)
SARHADDI NELSON: Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Cairo.
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