Army’s warning shots fail to end Suez Canal strike

Egyptian armed forces fired live ammunition in the air in the city of Suez in an attemp to force protesting workers from the Suez Arsenal company to end their strike.

“The army interfered to force us to do the necessary work for a gas tanker to move, essentially ending our strike,” says Nasser Othman, treasurer of the company’s workers’ syndicate. “They were not successful.”

Earlier strikes did not affect the movement of vessels in the waterway, according to reports.

Workers of the seven Suez Canal Authority subsidiaries are protesting for the sixth day demanding better pay and work benefits.

A similiar incident occurred Saturday in Ismailia where the Egyptian military fired shots in the air to prevent hundreds of striking Suez Canal workers from storming the administration office of the Canal Authority, according to news agencies.

A delegation representing workers of the seven companies is currently in Cairo to meet with Ahmed El-Boraie, Egypt’s labour minister, and discuss workers’ demands.

On 19 April, the labour minister and the head of the Suez Canal Authority reached an agreement to add 40 per cent of workers’ bonus payments to their basic pay, remove the bonus ceiling and grant workers an extra daily meal.

These decisions, supposed to be implemented in June, have not materialized, prompting workers to resume their strike.

Suez Canal employees were among the civil servants and workers who went on strike across Egypt before the toppling of Hosni Mubarak on 11 February and played a pivotal role in building pressure during the revolution.

The canal is a strategic and vital source of foreign currency for Egypt, along with tourism, oil and gas exports and remittances from Egyptians living abroad.

Revenue from the Canal witnessed a slight fall in January and February 2011 compared to December but was higher than the same period last year. Analysts and officials assume the drop was not due to political unrest.

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