Friday, April 30, 2010

the times have changed/ 2 may protest: cairo streets

I am writing you today because of an emergency.

Like in so many places, the dispersion of a neo-liberal economic agenda is threatening to drown many Egyptians alive.

Since 2004, the Egyptian government has applied economic policies that have translated into reduced support- of any kind- for workers and farmers and increased benefits for agro-business owners and entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, the Egyptian economic agenda has entailed fast-track (if selective) economic liberalization, partly to blame for steady inflation in Egypt. Again, this is good for businesses, not workers.

With an unsatiable desire for high FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) quotas, Egyptian authorities are making it easier for foreign businesses to invest in Egypt, including by means of subsidies on gas and electricity and minimal labor regulations. Essentially, this is enabling a double exploitation of Egyptian resources, natural and human, for the benefit of the local business elite and foreign investors.

I want to visit just one of the very particular effects of these kinds of economic regulations: the effect on a minimum living wage.

In Egypt we have an official minimum wage of 35EGP ($6)/ month that has remained unchanged since 1984. A vast number of Egyptian wage earners are making between $50-$100 a month. With severe inflation over the past four years I have no idea how families survive even when breadwinners are working multiple jobs at such rates.

One month ago, on 1 April, Egyptian workers won a court ruling forcing the Egyptian government to set a living wage for both private and public sector workers.The decision requires the Prime Minister to implement a miniumum living wage in accordance with Egyptian market prices by 1 May 2010 or be sent to prison for failing to conform with the court ruling.

A delegation of workers calls on all working Egyptians to join them in their protest in front of the Cabinet of Ministers in downtown Cairo at 13:00GMT on 2 May 2010 to demand that the government enforce the court ruling.

The 2 May protest does not concern merely a single segment of Egyptian society or a specific government policy. It is an action to obtain a living wage to guarantee dignity for all Egyptians; an action to curb the exploitation and oppression Egyptians experience as working people. Furthermore, I don't think such an event concerns only Egyptians, it concerns people at the bottom the world over, who are being trampled for the excess of comfort and luxury of those at the top.

Watch a video about the court case and history of the coming protest on Egypt's streets

Watch videos of Egyptian workers, celebrities and politicians calling for wide participation of the protest on 2 May (in Arabic)

Pass on the information for the press to cover.

Get unions and syndicates you are connected with, to send letters or videos (similar to those linked to earlier) of solidarity and support. These can be filmed on a webcam and uploaded to youtube or other video hosting sites and the links forwarded to me.

Follow us via live video feed directly from the sit-in on the May 2010 at 13:00 GMT

Help spread the word on this uprising of a multitude.