Tax collectors’ revolt

Egypt’s real estate tax collectors are due to start an open-ended national strike today. Strikes are commonplace in Egypt but this one is especially significant.

The tax collectors won a major victory in 2007 after a series of protests that 

… culminated with a 12-day sit-in in front of the ministerial cabinet headquarters in downtown Cairo. They roughly raised their salaries by 325 percent, thanks to the strike, and went on a year later to found Egypt’s first independent trade union in half a century. 

The issue, basically, is about recognition of independent unions. In most Arab countries (or at least, those that allow unions at all) they are controlled by the government. The tax collectors’ dispute centres on a social welfare fund where the Egyptian finance ministry insists on dealing with the government-backed union rather than the independent union which has widespread popular support.

For developments on this, and other industrial unrest in Egypt, watch Hossam el-Hamalawy’s 3arabawy blog.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 11 August 2009