Egyptian ministers meet with striking postal unions

Egyptian ministers and postal management were expected to begin meeting with postal unions today to listen to their demands as strikes continue in the country for a second week. Postal workers have been on strike across Egypt since the middle of last week, as part of a growing wave of labour discontent in the country at large, following January’s revolution.

Around half of post offices in Egypt are reported to be closed as workers did not return after the Eid holiday at the end of Ramadan.

Picket lines formed at the weekend, with Egyptian media reporting that as of today, the strike remains “solid”.

Workers are seeking a 7% pay rise to keep up with inflation, extra bonuses for workers in rural areas and a profit-sharing system that would see performance bonuses reaching as high as 200% of the basic salary, Egyptian media report.

Postal staff are also protesting what they see as corruption within Egypt Post management, particularly among officials who have remained in place from the administration of former President Mubarak.

Demands have included the resignation of Egypt Post chairman Tarek al-Saadany.

The postal strikes look set to be followed by industrial action in other sectors, in what is a major problem for the post-revolution military government, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), with action planned for later this month as the country grows impatient over promises made by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.

A number of new unions have been formed for postal workers, who are objecting to the “astronomical differences” in salaries for ordinary postal workers and top Egypt Post officials and their consultants, who often include retired police and army generals.

Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported yesterday that the country’s communications ministry had dismissed the head of the postal authority in the south of Daqahlia Governorate, northeast of Cairo, as it sought to meet with striking staff.

Government ministers were expected to meet with postal worker representatives today at the Trade Union Federation in Cairo, to hear workers’ demands.

Hisham Abdel-Latif, the president of the Cairo branch of the new independent union, told Egyptian broadsheet Al-Ahram that the Postal Authority in Egypt can “easily” afford to pay its workers higher wages.

“The Postal Authority is not only a solvent entity, it is actually quite profitable. Their savings accounts operation brings in EGP 62bn annually, which the authority invests in banks,” he said.

Egypt Post

Today, Egypt Post issued a new package of offers to placate postal workers, along with a statement to the effect that it will offer 1,946 temporary workers full-time contracts this year.

The Post said the government would offer a production incentive based on the Egypt Post’s net income and mail volumes, and insisting that the company’s consultants were being laid off, and that 40 had already been cut.

The government is also offering to scrap taxes on bonuses and improve worker healthcare arrangements.

Egypt Post said a high-level management committee has been formed to hold meetings with representatives of workers in all regions this week, to hear their demands.

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