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Truckers deny ending nationwide strike.

CAIRO: Drivers of trailer trucks denied reports claiming that they had ended their nationwide strike after officials promised to consider their objections over recent taxes.

Reports claimed that truckers ended their strike on Tuesday and would resume striking in March if their demands were not met.

One trucker in Gharbeya told Daily News Egypt on condition of anonymity that commerce chamber officials met with drivers and promised to resolve their problem with the tax authority, adding that it was this meeting that made it seem like the strike had ended.

The trucker also claimed that some officials from the commerce chamber, as well as state security officers, tried to exert pressure on the drivers to end the strike.

"The strike in Gharbeya and other governorates is still active, and those who [mistakenly] quit the strike will resume striking," the Gharbeya trucker said.

Over 100,000 truckers began striking across Egypt on Dec. 10 after the Ministry of Finance imposed new taxes that would be retroactive for the last five years. In addition, the ministry imposed new trucking operational procedures.

According to the Gharbeya trucker, the drivers of trailers were surprised to find a new taxation system imposed on them in December.

"After we used to pay about LE 2,000 or LE 3,000 per year, we found out that we are required to pay about LE 20,000 annually - not only for the coming year, but for the past five years," the trucker said.

However, on Dec. 13, Minister of Finance Youssef Boutros-Ghali said that no amendments were introduced to the income tax law concerning trucks and truck trailers. The minister also denied the introduction of any alterations in the tax category for trailers, stressing that no retroactive duties were imposed.

For his part, Head of the Tax Authority Ahmed Refaat confirmed Ghali's statement, saying that no amendments were introduced to Law No. 91 of 2005. Refaat added that truckers pay taxes based on the guidelines already in effect, with no increase in transportation costs or tax burdens.

"The drivers do not trust the statements of the ministry," Mohamed Abul-Dahab, a representative from the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services in Gharbeya, told Daily News Egypt. "The whole situation began once the drivers received letters from the tax authority imposing the new taxes - almost double of what they used to pay."

Truckers also rejected a recently introduced decree stipulating the replacement of trailer trucks with tractors by 2012 in a bid to reduce deadly road accidents.

Drivers and owners of trailer trucks argue that their vehicles are not the cause of traffic accidents, maintaining instead that the roads themselves - which require resurfacing - are the main reason.

"Trailer trucks are far safer than tractors, which sometimes cause even more accidents," the Gharbeya trucker argued. "Roads need to be adjusted in the first place in order to [prevent accidents]."

Due to the absence of trailers, sales in most cement factories have completely stopped and sales in steel factories were reduced by about 90 percent, which eventually led to a rise in the price of the two main construction materials.

According to the Land Transport Association in the Gharbeya governorate, the daily losses amount to about LE 500 million.

The transportation and exportation of agricultural products were negatively affected as well, which led to an increase in the prices of vegetables and fruits in most governorates amidst fears of a wheat shortage.

In the Sharqeya governorate, a driver was reportedly killed and his assistant injured Tuesday by colleagues who threw stones at him after he refused to abide by the strike decision and continued working.

Meanwhile, Minister of Transport Alaa El-Deen Mohamed Fahmy formed a high committee Tuesday to regulate the activities of heavy transportation. The committee is composed of eight businessmen, as well as representatives of transport, commerce and industry associations.

Daily NewsEgypt 2009

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Publication:Daily News Egypt (Egypt)
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Dec 23, 2010
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