Egypt's military council calls for immediate stop to strikes

The military council in Egypt has issued its second statement in three days calling for an immediate halt to all labour unrest.

The military council in Egypt has issued its second statement in three days calling for an immediate halt to all labour unrest.

The new warning raised expectations of an outright ban on protests and strikes that could raise the tension in a country already growing more nervous by the day over uncertainties about the future.

Industrial unrest unleashed by the turmoil in Egypt continued today despite a warning by the ruling military that protests and strikes were hampering efforts to improve the economy and return life to normal.

Airport staff protested for better pay , textile workers went on strike to demand a corruption investigation and residents of a Suez Canal city pressed for closing a chemical factory they say is dumping toxic waste into a lake.

“We urge citizens and members of professional and labour unions to go on with their jobs, each in their position,” a text message sent to Egyptian mobiles from the military said.

So far, the warnings have been defied by people airing grievances everywhere over just about everything, from meagre wages to police brutality and corruption.

The council that took power from Hosni Mubarak on Friday said strikes and protests were hampering efforts to salvage the economy and return to normal life after the 18-day democracy revolt that forced the president out of office.

Egypt’s economy is in virtual paralysis with the unrest, facing extended bank and stock market closures and an evaporation of tourism – a key source of income for the country.

Hundreds of airport workers protested inside the arrivals terminal at Cairo International Airport to press demands for better wages and health coverage. The protest did not disrupt flights.

In the industrial Nile Delta city of Mahallah al-Koubra, workers from Egypt’s largest textile factory went on strike over pay and calls for an investigation into alleged corruption at the factory, according to labour rights activist Mustafa Bassiouni.

Mahallah in April 2008 witnessed the country’s largest protests in decades, when demonstrators took to the streets to press demands for better pay and a check on rising food prices. The youth movement behind the Mahallah protest then was a key player in the 18 days of anti-Mubarak protests.

In Port Said, a coastal city at the northern tip of the Suez Canal, about 1,000 people demonstrated to demand that a chemical factory be closed because it was dumping waste in a lake near the city.

Given the instability across the country authorities decided to put back by another week the reopening of schools and universities, an indication it still has some way to go before it returns to normal.

Banks are closed today and tomorrow, the last day of the business week in Egypt. There was no word on whether they would reopen on Sunday, the start of the business week.

The stock market has been closed for the past three weeks and, again, there was no word on when it would resume operating. The market lost nearly 17% of its value in two tumultuous sessions in late January before it was ordered shut to halt the slide.

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