Post office workers have struck in the latest wave of protests to sweep Egypt.
Thousands of postal workers have taken part in protests and pickets across the country since the beginning of May.
Last week also saw walkouts at the Nile Cotton Ginning factories, a 1,000-strong strike by workers at Tanta Flax and Oil Company, and a sit-in by steel workers in Tebbeen, which is south of Cairo, Egypt’s capital.
Labourers at the archeological sites in Nubia are also threatening to take action.
The trigger for the post office strikes was the imposition of a new appraisal system in February 2009. This allows managers to sack workers who receive poor performance reports over two years.
Activists among the postal workers began a campaign to stop the system.
Postal workers are also demanding parity with workers in the Egyptian Telecommunications Company, who are employed by the same government ministry.
Despite intimidation by the postal police and the security forces, over 5,000 workers took part in protests across the country on 7 May.
The centre of the militancy was in Kafr al-Shaykh, in the central Nile Delta. A strike there lasted from 18 to 23 May.
The government-controlled postal union tried to sabotage the action. It condemned the strike and froze the membership of those who joined the campaign.
Managers transferred more militant workers to other offices and threatened others with dismissal and other sanctions.
Despite these pressures, the postal workers continued to fight back. Following the arrest of a leading activist, the workers organised a second successful strike and protest on 18 May.
This time managers attempted to lock out the workers to prevent them from joining the demonstrations. The workers are threatening more action.
The postal workers’ movement has much in common with the strikes by property tax collectors in 2007.
The tax collectors, who are low-paid civil service workers, launched a successful national battle with the Egyptian state over pay and working conditions.
Using similar tactics to the tax collectors, post workers coordinated actions across different regions. They took their struggle onto the streets.
This is in open defiance of the state in a country where public protests are banned. The protests have been key to building solidarity among ordinary people.
Over the past three years the struggle by tens of thousands of Egyptian workers over issues such as wages and working conditions have taken on a new dimension.
The textile workers’ walkouts in December 2006 spread the idea that strikes could win real gains.
Tax collectors have turned their unofficial strike committees into the first independent union in Egypt for over 50 years.
These struggles have opened up the idea that the working class is at the forefront in the fight for democracy.
International solidarity has been vital in supporting the different struggles that have taken place in the face of severe state repression. We need more.
Please rush messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org They will be forwarded to the Egyptian postal workers.
Additional reporting by Anne Alexander