A coalition of labor groups and NGOs will be demonstrating tomorrow 11 AM in downtown Cairo, calling for raising the national minimum wage.
The national minimum wage in Egypt is LE35 a month, and remains unchanged since 1984. Labor activists want the government to raise it to LE1,200.
In a statement signed by more than 10 groups, the government was accused of "impoverishing the population" by the privatizing factories and social services, and called for a protest in Hussein Hegazi Street, facing the ministerial cabinet headquarters.
Signatories include the Mahalla textile workers, the independent union of property tax collectors, postal labor organizers, train drivers, and a group of human rights NGOs, including the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR).
"This is a message to the ruling National Democratic Party and the government that the labor movement’s demands must be met immediately," said Khaled Ali, the labor lawyer who directs the ECESR. "Raising the national minimum wage is a demand that has no party, no idelogical color. It’s simple: the Egyptian people cannot continue living with those ridiculous level of wages."
Last Tuesday, the country’s Administrative Court ruled that the government must set a minimum wage in line with rising prices of basic commodities," without defining a figure.
The court order came following a lawsuit by the ECESR against the president and the prime minister, requesting that they narrow the gap between wages and soaring prices. The center provided the court with economic studies to support their request, mainly conducted by celebrity economist Ahmed el-Naggar.
"The ruling recently must be taken seriously by the government, and it has to be implemented," said Ali. "Tomorrow’s protest is about making sure this happens."
Egypt has been embracing a strong wave of industrial actions since December 2006, when Ghazl el-Mahalla, the largest textile mill in the Middle East, with roughly 24,000 workers in its factories, went on strike for three days over unpaid bonuses. Workers in the textile mill had called for a strike over several demands in April 2008, including raising the national mimimum wage to LE1,200. The strike was aborted by the police, while the town errupted in a two-day uprising amid bread shortages.
Saturday’s protest comes on the heels of continued protests and sit-ins in downtown Cairo, in the area surrounding the parliament. The sidewalks have seen sit-ins by textile workers, civil servants, housing demolition victims, and people with special needs demanding housing and access to government jobs.