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When Egyptian army led by General Adel- Faattah el-Sissi overthrew the Islamist President Morsi’s government and installed a hand picked interim government, there were big hopes and illusions that the military backed government will improve the living conditions of the masses. But these hopes and illusions have been replaced by anger and increased discontent against President Sissi led military backed government in the working class and the poor. In the last years, Sissi government ruled with iron hand and further curtailed democratic rights and liberties. President Sissi been able to largely crush the opposition movement and anti government demonstration.

But now the Sissi dictatorship is facing another staunch opposition in the form of rising workers protests. The labour movement was quite for sometime when new government took power. But now it seems that workers have lost the patience with the government. The workers are protesting against the low wages, rising cost of living and delays in salaries and bonuses. Workers are taking strike actions, organising protest demonstrations and pickets despite the threats of violent crackdown from military police.

Thousands of workers protested at a total of 493 actions in the first four months of 2016, a 25% increase from the same period a years ago, according to Democracy Meter, an Egyptian NGO that tracks and verifies protests using multiple sources AFP reported.

“ Labour tried to give el-Sissi a chance. But you can not take away people’s rights and fail to fix poverty simultaneously”, said Mohamed Adel, director of the group. He said the actions range from work stoppages to peaceful marches and pickets according to AFP. The port workers organised sit-in at Alexandria port and also in Cairo. The workers from different sectors have organised pickets and protests despite the fact that there is ban on such activities imposed by the government in 2013.

The Sissi regime has targeted the independent unions which mostly emerged in and around the popular revolt against long time dictator Hosni mubarak. Hosni Mubarak ruled Egypt with iron hand and only official trade unions linked with the regime was allowed to organise and function. There were only state controlled unions for decades before the independent unions started to emerge in the last couple of years of Mubarak regime. Independent unions played key role in the uprising called Arab Spring which ousted Hosni Mubarak after 30 years of brutal rule.

Now the Sissi dictatorship is trying to bring the situation under control and targeting the independent unions. The government is fearing backlash from the workers against its policies and repression, so it is trying to destroy the independent organisations of the workers. The government is preparing to bring in a new law which will ban the independent unions and make it a criminal offence to form such a union. The official unions linked to the regime have already filed a lawsuit to criminalise un-official unions. The government also wants to bring a new law to block foreign funding from the international labour movement and other organisations to the Egyptian trade unions.

According to French news agency, AFP,  Independent trade unions filed a complaint in ILO against the government, denouncing what they describe as government attempts to “liquidate” them. Kamal Abbas, head of the independent Center for Trade Union and Workers services, said he expects more strikes, but not the kind of large scale demonstration seen during and after the 2011 uprising. “The government is attacking the independent and professional unions, and the workers are standing up, especially in cases where they are dismissed unjustly or benefits are not paid out”.

The government even ban the May Day demonstrations and rallies but workers defy the ban took out rallies. Most of these rallies were organised by independent trade unions. In the last week of May, security forces attacked the peaceful sit-in in the shipyard in Alexandria and arrested 13 workers. Now these workers and some engineers might face a military court because this shipyard belongs to Navy. The sackings of the labour activists and leaders of the independent unions have become a routine. The state is using repression, intimidation and anti union legislation to suppress the rising workers movement.

When Fattah el-Sissi ousted the Morsi from power took power into his own hands, he targeted the Morsi supporters, secular and liberal political activists  and avoided direct confrontation with trade unions. After crushing the April 6 youth movement which was at the forefront of the uprising against mubarak, and putting the Muslim Brotherhood to the matt, now he decided to turn against the independent trade unions and workers protests. 6 youth group has since been outlawed and its leaders imprisoned. The sissi regime seems nervous about the increased strikes, protests and workers struggles in last few months. There is also realisation of the fact in the regime that rising prices and sprawling inflation will force the workers to go out on the streets and agitate against increased financial hardships. That is why the regime wants to strangle the independent trade union movement so there should be no organised force to intervene or to encourage such struggles.

On the other side, workers are not ready to concede without a fight. The workers are determined to fight for their rights and wages. The decline in the oil prices will reduce the financial assistance to the Sessi regime from Saudi Arabia and UAE. The economic out look is not seems bright at the moment, which means more attacks on the living standards and working conditions. The further collapse in the economic situation can spark a new uprising against Sessi regime. Strikes have already started to place place in the Misr Spinning and Weaving factory where 20,000 workers are fighting for better wages and working conditions. This was the factory where workers started the first mass demonstration against Hosni Mubarak. Around 10,000 workers are associated with independent unions. The workers of this factory are preparing to take on the regime once again as the workers at other workplaces. One workers in Cairo sums up the situation in these words “ we were living a hard life under mubarak. Than we kick him out and hoped for better but life has become hell under Sessi. It is hard to bear the life. Left with no other option but to organise struggle for better life”.

It is becoming clear that situation is heading towards a showdown between Sessi regime and the Egyptian working class. Egyptian working class needs a well organised and powerful workers movement and a mass political party to not only to defend itself but to score a decisive victory against tyranny, repression, super exploitation and dictatorship.

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