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A First national strike in Egypt

23 May, 2013This week saw striking workers resume work at state-owned North Cairo Electricity Distribution Company (NCEDC), after detained workers were released and management retracted a plan to remove certain bonuses.

Workers at North Cairo Electricity Distribution Company NCEDC and 13 of its subsidiaries returned to work this week, ending a strike that began a week previously to demand the release of 17 colleagues who had been arrested during a protest against management plans.

The workers are all members of the new independent trade union, the Electricity and Energy Workers’ Union. A member of EFITU (Egypt Federation of Independent Trade Unions), IndustriALL Global Union has been working with the union since its foundation and it is in the process of affiliating to our global union family.

The initial protest had seen around a thousand workers gathered at the main headquarters of the company in Cairo in support of a series of demands and in protest at management’s decision to remove bonus from their monthly pay cheques.

Despite the totally peaceful nature of the demonstration security forces attempted to stop the protests, arresting 15 of the workers on charges of blocking the street and damaging public property. Thousands of workers in subsidiaries of NCEDC showed solidarity with the detained workers, announcing strikes and halting operations of their branches.

IndustriALL Global Union shared the outrage of the workers and their union and Jyrki Raina, General Secretary wrote a strong letter of protest to the President of Egypt calling on him to personally intervene in the situation concerning the Independent Electricity and Energy Workers’ Union and to instruct the Minister of Electricity to sit down with the union and negotiate in good faith over all the workers’ demands in a calm and peaceful atmosphere. See General Secretary Raina's letter in English and Arabic attached to this article.

We are informed that May 23, 2013 an initial meeting took place in Cairo between Wael Akl, the union President and Mr. Mohammed Issa Abdel Aal, General Director of the Public Administration, responsible for collective bargaining at the Ministry of Manpower and Immigration, where it was agreed that the Minister of Electricity and Energy would convene a meeting in the near future to consider all outstanding issues.

IndustriALL Global Union will continue to closely monitor and support the struggles by Egyptian workers to form real democratic and independent trade unions and will keep affiliates informed of future developments in this important case.