Egyptian rail workers strike over low pay
WSWS: 30 January 2009
Railway workers went on strike for the second time in a week on January 27, bringing trains throughout Egypt to a standstill.
The Daily News Egypt reported, “Signalmen, switch operators and crossing guardsmen began the three-hour strike shortly before noon after the administration of the Egyptian National Railway (ENR) reneged on a promise made two days previously to meet and discuss their demands.
“The workers congregated in the signal tower in Cairo’s Ramsis railway station while a delegation of three signalmen and three trade union members met ENR deputy manager Hany Hegab”.
Haitham Mohamadein, a lawyer who specialises in workers’ rights, told Daily News Egypt that the ENR’s 62,000 signalmen and switch operators are demanding wage parity with train drivers.
“Signalmen, switch operators and crossing guardsmen earn between LE 200 and LE 700 [US$35-125] a month while train drivers get between LE 700 and LE 1,500, [US$125-270]”, Mohamedein explained.
“While train drivers receive an occupational hazard allowance of LE 200 [US$35] per month, the equivalent allowance for these workers is only between LE 20 and LE 70 [US$3.50-$12.50]. In addition to an increase in this allowance they are calling for a bonus equivalent to 20 percent of their salary”.
Mohamedein said that crossing guardsmen have particular grievances.
“Crossing guardsmen work 12 hours a day and are not reimbursed for the four hours of overtime they work in addition to their basic eight hours. They are also forced to work on national holidays and again do not receive compensation due to them for this. At the end of the month they are simply given an extra payment of between LE 20 and LE 70 [US$3.50-$12.50] on top of their basic wage”.
Qualified crossing guardsmen who have worked for 10 years or more on the railways are also being passed over for promotion.
Some 200 to 300 drivers congregated on the tracks of Cairo’s Ramsis station last Tuesday, preventing trains from moving for four hours. According to drivers in Ramsis, train drivers in other parts of Egypt were also on strike.