While developments in Egypt in the aftermath of the military coup and massacres of Muslim Brotherhood supporters have dominated the Western media, recent strikes have erupted there and elsewhere on the African continent.
Egyptian workers at Suez Steel have battled their bosses since July 23. The work stoppage prompted military forces to arrest union leaders on Aug. 12.
Their brief detention and a melee that injured two workers led owners to shut the plant until employees agreed unconditionally to return to the job. Reportedly, on Aug. 22 workers reached an agreement with the bosses to resume work if 15 fired employees were rehired.
Steelworker Walid Hassan told Ahram Online, “The Suez governor promised to release our colleagues on Friday. If not, workers might go on strike again. … We didn’t get a share of the company’s profits since 2007. We only asked for the equivalent of six months of wages as profit for 2012; we reduced our demand by four months but still the administration refused.’’ (Aug. 22)
At Mahalla City Weaving and Textile, one shift of 10,000 employees refused to work on Aug. 26. This action is part of a broader conflict involving all 24,000 factory employees who have not been paid full profit-sharing bonuses bosses promised. Workers want management fired and a more representative labor bargaining unit, not one that is pro-boss. Negotiations are underway between workers and the military-appointed governor.
Libyan oil worker strikes
For weeks, oil workers in Libya have blocked production, reducing the oil flow out of the country by more than 50 percent. Their demands relate to salaries and working conditions.
The Aug. 23 Platt’s, a McGraw-Hill Financial publication, says, “For buyers of Libyan crude, the inability to load at three of the country’s main export terminals — Es Sider, Ras Lanuf and Zueitina — for the past four weeks, because of ongoing strikes and protests, has become a major headache.
“Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has warned that the country could well lose some of its main lifters of crude, which have sought out alternatives during this period of disruption, while oil minister Abdel Bari al-Arousi has said state oil company NOC could face legal action from buyers for failing to deliver on its term contracts.”
Libya’s political, economic and security situation has deteriorated following the 2011 Pentagon-NATO counterrevolutionary war of regime change that resulted in former leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s overthrow and assassination. Rebel groups still remain outside the control of the U.S.-installed puppet government led by the General National Congress. Many people in Libya’s eastern and southern regions seek to break away from Tripoli politicians’ tenuous “authority.”
Nigerian education, health workers demand higher pay
In the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Academic Staff Union of Universities is striking for pay increases and massive investments in the higher educational system. Although Nigeria is the largest oil exporter to the U.S., this economic arrangement has not translated into higher salaries and quality educational facilities.
In the Aug. 26 Nigerian Observer, Patrick Eholor writes, “[O]ur leaders’ children don’t attend our universities. You will find them at Harvard, Cambridge or Stanford. That is why our leaders don’t care whether our universities are providing quality education.”
A strike by members of the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria, National Association of Nurses and Midwives, and other unions has paralyzed services in several areas. Since Aug. 21, in Ilorin, Kaduna, Sokoto, Lagos and Lokoja, public hospital health services have ground to a halt as workers demand better pay and working conditions.
South African strikes spread
Striking Toyota and Volkswagen workers in the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa are demanding a 10 percent wage increase. Gold mining, building, civil engineering and airline workers have joined the autoworkers and walked off their jobs to demand wage increases and improved working conditions.
South Africa has the largest economy and industrial working class in Africa.Since 2012, numerous strikes there have affected key sectors of the national and global economies.
During 2012, dozens of people were killed and injured in disputes in the mining and agricultural sectors. The rand, the national currency, has fallen in value next to the U.S. dollar, while mining bosses threaten to close platinum facilities due to work stoppages and other unrest.
All strikes on the continent reflect the world capitalist crisis, which originated in the United States and Western Europe. Labor militancy in Africa represents the profit system’s inability to provide a decent standard of living for the majority within capitalist society.
These contradictions are also escalating in the Western industrialized states where wages are declining and poverty is growing. This must be met by greater determination to organize and win the just demands of the workers.
Moreover, workers living in the imperialist states must seek avenues of expressing solidarity with the African proletariat.