TIME’s Cairo correspondent Abigail Hauslohner continues her examination of aftermath of Egypt’s revolution. As Islamists and liberal factions begin to shape a new future for their country, one group is being left out of the political discussion: the working class. Wealthier, educated, urban citizens have seen much of their revolutionary demands met in the form of political reforms, but workers and rural dwellers have yet to see real changes in their economic plight. As Hauslohner writes, both the intellectuals and the military are calling for a temporary hold to all labor strikes in the name of achieving political stability. Dozens of strikes and sit-ins have stalled business across the public and private sectors in recent months. Hauslohner goes on:
Still, while they lack political clout, the lower class masses — at least in the form of striking workers — have been loud. A new $83 billion budget for fiscal year 2011-2012 released by the Egyptian finance ministry on June 22 says as much about reform priorities as it does about who’s making noise. The budget pours money into social welfare spending and subsidies, apparently attempts to address working class unhappiness. And on Friday, workers groups that established the country’s first independent labor union federation in March are calling for a million man protest to demand that the government crack down on cronyism in job hiring and uphold its promises to establish better worker rights.
In Zagazig, the railway workers say they want overtime compensation and better pay. Some say they make little more than 500 Egyptian Pounds ($84) a month — hardly enough to raise a family on, and still 200 Egyptian Pounds below the new national minimum wage. “We normal people are calling for our rights,” explains one train air conditioner technician plainly.
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