12/4/07

Tax workers protests threaten 'paralysis'

A group of 55,000 tax workers demonstrated across Egyptian provinces for higher wages and better working conditions on Monday, vowing to start an indefinite strike and stop collecting taxes until their demands were met.

The workers had similarly protested last October. According to the workers, who are all members of the property tax department, their counterparts in departments run by the Ministry of Finance receive better benefits, a notion which they deem 'unfair.'

The protestors picketed the cabinet, organizing a march that started from its headquarters, demanding that discrepancies in wages be eliminated and asking for bonuses 'in compensation for the years of hard work' where their rights were abused, according to local newspapers which ran a preview of the picket.

In Arish, 380 kilometres north-east of Cairo, tax workers told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that state security personnel have given them orders not to strike or join their fellow workers in Cairo.

However, a source from the tax department who requested anonymity, said that a group of employees had already traveled to the Egyptian capital to join the larger protests there despite of the ban.

The workers meanwhile stand alone as their union refuses to back up their protests.

Hussein Mugawer, head of the labor union, told al-Masri al-Yom newspaper that the workers' pleas are legitimate but they do not have the union's support when it comes to strikes and protests.

'A strike will complicate ongoing negotiations (with the government),' Mugawer said. 'The policy of arm-twisting that the workers is following will not work (with the cabinet) and it will complicate maters more.'

Makram Labib, a unionist, told the same newspaper that the tax workers strikes - if they happen - could be the biggest of their kind and could cause what he described as a 'paralysis' in the tax department.

(news.monstersandcritics.com)

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