ASSIUT, Egypt – Thousands of brick workers blocked railroad tracks from a southern city to Cairo for a second day Sunday to protest rising industrial oil prices, causing the cancellation of some services, security officials said.
The government lifted industrial fuel oil subsidies last week as part of a reform program, prompting labor protests by quarry and brick factory workers.
Egypt has been gripped by unrest in recent days, partially because of public discontent with new government measures designed to deal with a crippling budget deficit. But the unrest has also been political, as criticism of President Mohammed Morsi's government is on the rise.
Opponents accuse Morsi and his government of failing to tackle Egypt's myriad problems, and of monopolizing power. The government says political bickering has hindered its ability to manage a serious economic crunch.
Khaled el-Hawari, a marketing executive in one of the brick factories, said industrial fuel oil prices increased by 50 percent, threatening the business and the lives of hundreds of workers who could be laid off.
"No one is listening to us or responding," he said. "We plan to protest outside the Cabinet next."
A security official said negotiations with the brick workers have continued, allowing some trains coming from the capital to get through to the south, but causing a large backlog of trains in Cairo. Nearly 20 train trips to Cairo were cancelled.
The official said that the workers removed tracks for trains heading one direction near Beni Suef, 70 miles south from Cairo, and put wood planks on the other.
A worker at the Beni Suef station said thousands of disgruntled passengers had to rely on road transportation, as vehicles and minivans crowded outside the train station to pick up the backlog. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
The security official said some trains traveling from Cairo were passing through. He also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Hundreds of Workers in a quarry in the province of Kafr el-Sheikh, some 50 miles north of Cairo, stormed the local government building forcing its staff to evacuate. The workers are demanding permanent employment in the factory. They chanted against the recently appointed local governor, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi's political group.
Security only arrived later to the building, and evacuated the protesting workers, a security official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Residents of the coastal city of Port Said, at the northern tip of the Suez Canal, pressed their general strike which entered its second week on Sunday. The city has practically come to a halt as thousands of workers from the main industrial area joined the strike.
Port Said residents are angered by the killing of more than 40 residents in clashes with security forces in the city following a court order they deemed unjust. The protesters are demanding a thorough investigation into what they say was the security agencies responsibility, and Morsi's political responsibility, in the killing of civilians. The government so far has promised a new investigation, but it has yet to begin.
Shipping in the Suez Canal has not been affected. But protesters have blocked the road leading to the East Port in Port Said, a major container terminal, preventing workers from getting to the quay and obstructing loading and offloading of ships.
Calls for a civil strike in line with Port Said have spread around Egypt. A group of protesters have blocked the entrance to a major administrative building in Cairo's Tahrir Square, stopping citizens from entering and prompting small scuffles.