CAIRO — Thousands of workers packed into Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Sunday, demanding social justice in post-revolt Egypt as they celebrate their first Labour Day in three decades without ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
Speakers representing independent labour unions took to the stage in the square — epicentre of anti-regime protests that brought Mubarak down — calling for the independence of syndicates, a minimum wage and the trial of corrupt union heads.
Waving Egyptian, Libyan, Syrian and communist party flags, they chanted “Social Justice,” as security forces and military police looked on, clearing the way for traffic in Cairo’s bustling centre.
A statement signed by 49 organisations including the Coalition of Revolution Youth, political parties, leftist groups, independent unions, NGOs and rights groups called for a minimum monthly wage of 1,500 Egyptian pounds (around $250, 169 euros), and a wage ceiling to “ensure fair distribution of wealth.”
They also called for the Mubarak-affiliated trade unions to have their assets frozen.
Hussein Megawer, former head of the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) is currently being investigated for corruption as part of a sweeping probe launched by the country’s new military rulers.
Earlier, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf called on workers to help get “the wheel back in motion” after the country was practically paralysed by 18 days of anti-regime protests in January and February and has since been inching towards normality.
When Mubarak stepped down on February 11, handing power to a military council, political protests gave way to a nationwide explosion of pay strikes.
Workers have longed complained of a salary gap between management and staff, and say many workers have no benefits and legal protection, having worked on temporary contracts for years.
The Mubarak regime had also denied Egyptian workers the right to organise independent trade unions, which saw Egyptian syndicates banned from the International Labour Conference.