See also:
» 24.03.2011 - Still double standards in Egypt justice
» 11.02.2011 - Friday is D-day for Mubarak regime
» 09.02.2011 - Outside Cairo, Egypt protests get nasty
» 14.05.2010 - Nile water resource dispute splits region
» 19.04.2010 - Mitsubishi to fight Egyptian company in court
» 06.04.2009 - Police deployed to foil strike
» 18.02.2009 - Pharmacists suspend strike as negotiations continue
» 17.02.2009 - Egypt truckers strike enters fourth day

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Labour | Economy - Development | Politics

Wave of strikes could bring Mubarak down

Egyptian doctors put up a street clinic for protesters at central Cairo's Tahrir Square

© Anonymous/afrol News
afrol News, 10 February
- The protests in Egypt yesterday were joined by striking workers. Today, the strikes are widening, threatening to paralyse the economy and even close the Suez Canal. The price of upholding Mr Mubarak is becoming high.

An estimated six thousand workers operating the Suez Canal started strikes and sit-down actions yesterday, in support of the nation-wide protest movement demanding President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

Yesterday's striking Canal workers mainly were employees of service companies, not directly engaged in the organisation of navigation on the Suez Canal. This enabled the Canal Administration to maintain the canal open, only lowering the level of service.

But today, the strikes all over Egypt are augmenting. Also in Suez, Port Said and Ismailia - the main cities and service centres along the Canal - trade unions, workers and protesters are actively promoting a general strike, trying to recruit key employees of the Canal Administration. Everybody knows that a strike affecting traffic on the Suez Canal would provoke massive reactions that could lead to President Mubarak's fall.

Reports from Suez and Port Said this afternoon confirm that the strike movement and anti-government riots are gaining momentum. More Canal workers have joined the strike and, in Port Said, angry protesters have set fire on several buildings, including the headquarters of state security.

In Cairo, meanwhile, new independent trade unions - opposing the official state-controlled union - are taking the lead in organising the protests in the capital and also over the country. Already yesterday, these unions and striking workers dominated the protests in the streets of central Cairo.

The most diverse crowds of workers today again are taking to the streets in Cairo, with

Protesters and striking workers today again stream into Tahrir Square

© Hossam el-Hamalawy/afrol News
the strikes extending from one sector to another. Yesterday, transport workers, oil workers, industrial workers and teachers were the dominant groups.

Today, they are joined by thousands of nurses and hospital workers, lawyers, veterinarians, cinema industry workers, postal workers and industry workers. Marches from different parts of Cairo are directed towards Tahrir Square, many passing by parliament or their relevant ministry to chant anti-government slogans.

Outside Cairo, the strikes have also reached the city of El-Mahalla El-Kubra of half a million inhabitants, located 130 kilometres north of Cairo in the industrial heartland of Egypt. Largely ignored by international media - and totally ignored by Egyptian media - large crowds of protesters have filled the streets of El-Mahalla for more than one week.

Now, also the workers of El-Mahalla's key Misr Spinning and Weaving Company, employing 27,000, have laid down their work in a political strike. The protests therefore now have reached Egypt's key and vast industrial sector, employing around 17 percent of the national workforce, or between 4 and 5 million people.

Major strikes outside Cairo include cities that so far had been little affected by the protests, with Luxor, Menya and Quesna being among the most active. Here, major companies in the textiles, cement, coal and pharmaceutical industries are experiencing major labour protests and strikes.

The extending strikes are going far in paralysing the Egyptian economy. Egypt's main industry is the textile sector, which now is joini

Southern end of the Suez Canal and the city of Suez

© David Reid/Flickr/afrol News
ng the strikes. The second industry, food processing, is seeing its first strikes. The third, tourism, is already eliminated by the unrest, while other key sectors such as the chemical industry and construction are noting the side-effects of interruptions in other sectors.

Agriculture, representing around 30 percent of the Egyptian economy, is the least affected sector so far, although erratic financial services, transport strikes and interruptions and unpredictable markets are having their effect. Yesterday, the first major protests in rural areas of Egypt were noted, and brutally suppressed by police forces.

Also in the service sector, representing more than half of Egypt's economy, strikes and protests are rife. Strikes are directly affecting the transport and education sector. Also groups of state employees and parts of the cultural sector and the communications sector have announced strikes. Egypt's large banking and finance sector has been strongly affected of the unrest.

The government however still can count on key revenues from external aid - mainly the US - and from the Suez Canal. Revenues from the Canal have already dropped since the unrest, but could cease totally if the strikes succeed in closing operations.

With a smelt-down of the Egyptian economy, pressure from within the regime and from foreign governments for President Mubarak to step down would strongly increase. Internationally, the Egypt unrests have already led to a record oil price, and the closure of the Suez Canal would have great implications on world trade.

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