How to get a 600% pay rise

Anna Owens in Cairo. Anna Owens, PCS Euston Branch secretary, is on the left; Kamal Abu Eita, President of the Egyptian Independent Tax Collectors union, is third from left

Back in May, PCS Revenue & Customs Group Euston Branch Secretary Anna Owens joined other trade unionists visiting Egypt after mass protests overthrew President Mubarak

‘It was a humbling experience meeting Egyptian revolutionaries who had been beaten, imprisoned and victimised but who never gave up fighting.

We met delegations of health, transport and military workers but the one that impressed me the most was Kamal Abu Eita, a fiery 58 year-old, imprisoned 18 times, who was president of the tax collectors’ union.

Prevented from becoming a teacher for ‘security reasons’ he managed to get a job as a tax official – hated then because they only took taxes from the poor and the peasantry.

In 1974 Mubarak disbanded the trade union for the property tax collectors and attacked their wages, terms and conditions. In1982 Kamal was instrumental in setting up a new union for the tax collectors and became its president.

In 2007, after a further attack on wages, tax collectors launched a wave of sit-ins, gaining inspiration from the Mahalla Textile workers who, in 2006, had won their bonuses after organising sit-ins across the textile industry. Eventually the state was losing 80% of its revenues for property tax collecting that year.

Finally 5,000 took their protest to the ministry of finance beside Tahrir Square and began an eleven day sit-in. The strike was phenomenal .It was the first time tax inspectors had taken strike action, the first time that a strike had taken place in the street and the first time that men and women had come together like this.

On day eleven the minister of finance offered a 341% pay rise, ultimately rising to 600%.

In a media survey Kamal was voted the most popular person of that year and the tax collectors’ strike the most popular event.  In the massive occupation of Tahrir Square this year Kamal and others launched the Independent Tax Collectors Union’

Visiting London to speak at a Conference, Kamal Abu Eita joined Anna Owens on 30 June to speak on the picket line outside Euston Tower.

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