Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Strikes halt production in Egyptian city Mahalla

The headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Moqattam quarter of Cairo was stormed last Saturday by protesters against the rule of the Brotherhood. Several people got wounded. Egypt Independent reports that 15 people have been arrested  (Photo Al-Masry al-Youm).

Intensive strikes and protests against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi completely halted traffic in the industrial city of Mahalla in the Nile Delta on Monday. Aswat Masriya, a news portal affiliated to Thompson Reuters Foundation, reported that thousands of students embarked on marches, calling for the ouster of the incumbent regime and the rule of the "Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood." The Brotherhood is believed by many of the opposition to be the actual ruling body. Opponents argue that the group's Supreme Guide, Mohamed Badie, is the country's de facto ruler. Protests against both men and the powerful Islamist group caused the closure of around 1,300 factories. Students also failed to reach their schools and universities, while shops also were shut down due to the protests and the ensuing traffic problems. Aswat Masriya also reported that the entrances and exits of the city were blocked off, and public transportation was halted as a result. Angry protesters prevented buses from moving. According to Egyptian television, bus drivers and taxi drivers went on strike in protest at recurrent shortages of diesel fuel. They called for stepped up security at petrol stations, after a group of thugs reportedly stole fuel supplies.

In the meantime Egyptian bakers threaten to go on strike as well. Their association, representing 25.000 private bakers, initially wanted to strike in January, but postponed that till mid March in order to give the govenment more time to meet their demands. They say the government owes them 400 million Egyptian pounds ($59 million) in incentives due for producing state-subsidised bread for the poor. The state has long helped fund bread production, with the cheapest loaves selling for 5 piastres, or less than 1 U.S. cent. Minister of Supply and Internal Trade Bassem Oudasaid the bakers will face legal action if they carry out their threat to strike. The prospect of a bakers' strike has compounded a sense of economic crisis in a country where a drop in foreign currency reserves has already caused fuel shortages and raised the potential for more social unrest. Ouda told Egypt state TV that a Supreme Constitutional Court ruling gave the ministry the power to close indefinitely bakeries that halt production and refer their owners to the criminal court. “If it happens that they undertake this type of irresponsible step and halt production in 100 or 1,000 bakeries, we are ready with an emergency plan,” Ouda said on Monday.

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