Labor unrest, protests grow after Egypt's uprising

By Tarek El-tablawy

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Feb. 14 2011 1:40 p.m. MST

"It's hard for us to go back to work because people hate us," said one protester, a captain who was among the demonstrators. "An official funeral must be held for our martyrs."

About 150 graduates of archaeology schools, meanwhile, demonstrated outside the office of Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass, seeking jobs and accusing him of corruption.

The protest was deeply personal, with demonstrators saying Hawass, whose "Indiana Jones"-style hat made him an iconic figure the world over, was a "showman" and a self-promoter with little regard for the welfare of thousands of archaeology students unable to find work in their field.

"He doesn't care about us," said 22-year-old Gamal El-Hanafy. "He just cares about propaganda."

Also in Cairo, about 500 employees of the Opera House demanded the dismissal of the facility's chairman, Abdel-Moneim Kamel, alleging he was corrupt.

There were also protests over pay, work conditions or to press demands for losses incurred during the uprising around the country, including in October 6th province, west of Cairo, and the northern town of Banha, where protesters blocked the road to the capital.

Demonstrations also occurred in Aswan, Egypt's southernmost city; Alexandria on the Mediterranean; and Beni Suef, south of Cairo. In Minya province, south of Cairo, police and soldiers foiled an attempted prison break by inmates, killing four prisoners and wounding 11, according to Egypt's official news agency.

Alaa Ashour, head of the national carrier, EgyptAir, was removed by the civil aviation minister after workers went on strike at Cairo International Airport. Ashour, also described by airport officials as Mubarak's pilot on international trips, was removed late Sunday after workers called for more perks and pay.

Even so, the protests continued Monday in other subsidiaries of EgyptAir's parent company, as well as workers at companies that provide support services to the airline.

Reflecting the continuing downturn in travel from Egypt, EgyptAir said it had organized only 31 international flights and 12 domestic flights Monday. The carrier generally has about 145 flights per day.

The Central Bank of Egypt ordered banks across the country closed following a strike by employees of the National Bank, the largest state bank, and several other financial institutions. Tuesday is a national holiday in Egypt to mark the birth of Islam's 7th century Prophet Muhammad. The banks are scheduled to reopen Wednesday.

The stock market, however, will stay closed Wednesday and Thursday, the final weekday in Egypt. A previous announcement had said it would reopen Wednesday, ending a three-week closure that began after the market lost almost 17 percent of its value in two days of trading in late January.

The ruling military council that took over power from Mubarak has said that security and a return to normal are among its top priorities. It has urged Egyptians to return to work to save the economy after the 18 days of protests sent hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists fleeing in hurried evacuation flights — a major blow to the country's biggest economic sector.

Monday's protests came a day after the ruling military rulers took sweeping action to dismantle Mubarak's autocratic legacy, dissolving parliament, suspending the constitution and promising elections.

The generals also met Sunday with representatives of the broad-based youth movement that brought down the government. Prominent activist Wael Ghonim posted on a Facebook page he manages notes from the meeting between members of the military council and youth representatives, which he described as encouraging.

The military defended the caretaker government led by Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and stocked with Mubarak loyalists as necessary for now in the interests of stability but pledged to change it soon, according to Ghonim and another protester, Amr Salama.

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