Imagine Whitehall barricaded with buses and over 1,000 bus workers camped outside Downing Street demanding better pay, conditions and investment in public transport.
These kind of scenes greeted Egyptian cabinet ministers as they tried to resolve an ongoing strike of Public Transport Authority (PTA) workers last weekend.
Cairo bus workers are furious that money promised by the Minister of Labour has not materialised.
Drivers and conductors insist that the PTA should double their basic wages, which currently range between just 20 and 40 Egyptian pounds a month.
PTA workers also want investment, and the dismissal of corrupt officials appointed under the Mubarak regime.
On Saturday cabinet ministers announced that they had met strikers’ demands. But on Sunday workers discovered that the PTA did not have money to pay agreed increases—and were insisting on even worse conditions.
Thousands returned to Kasr al Aini Street, near Tahrir Square, to protest outside the cabinet office.
Transport workers are among the most powerful in Egypt. In a highly centralised country, transport strikes have an immediate impact.
Coordination within the transport sector is becoming increasingly important for Egypt’s independent unions.
Alongside the bus workers’ all-out strike and sit-in, the ruling military council faces renewed pressure from below.
Protests against the hated emergency laws and military repression brought hundreds of thousands into the streets across Egypt on Friday of last week.
Delegations of workers joined a mass rally in Tahrir Square, when tens of thousands demonstrated to “Reclaim the Revolution”.
Prominent slogans included, “Bread, freedom and social equality” and “Down with military rule”.
Thousands also marched in Alexandria and there were demos in other cities.
Protesters want an end to military repression, including the scrapping of military trials for civilians and laws that outlaw strikes and demonstrations.