MENA Solidarity spoke to Abeer Ashour, President of the Union of Bread Sellers and Producers in Suez during a recent visit to Egypt. Abeer sells the flat, round loaves which form a crucial part of the diet for millions of Egypt’s poorest people. This bread is subsidized by the government, but this system is under threat as organisations like the International Monetary Fund put pressure on the Egypt to end state support for basic goods such as bread and fuel. Anger over the government’s failure to guarantee bread supplies has been rising since the revolution of 2011, when millions came into the streets against the Mubarak regime under the slogan “bread, freedom and social justice”.
“There is a lot of corruption, and the whole system of bread production is failing. Of course, it is us the bakery workers and bread sellers who face the anger of our customers when the system goes wrong. They shout at us and a colleague was attacked with hammer.
I have a degree in Commerce, but as a divorced woman I’ve had no choice but to take this job, even though it doesn’t pay enough to feed my two kids. Our working conditions are really unsafe, particularly for women. We work in wooden kiosks in the street to distribute the bread from the public bakeries. I end up taking money from my own pocket to repair the kiosk where I work.
We are trying to build an independent union and have around 60 members now. Our wages are very low, we get around 265 LE a month. The old unions have done nothing for us, they worked hand-in-hand with the old regime and don’t really represent workers’ interests. That’s why we’ve set up our own union and joined the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions.”
What you can do:
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org to send a message of solidarity to Abeer and her colleagues