Egypt’s new government on Sunday ordered banks closed for the next two days after protests by National Bank workers apparently drove out the head of the institution.
The chairman of the National Bank of Egypt, Tarek Amer, told employees via e-mail that he submitted his resignation on Sunday, according to a person who received the message.
“I was saddened because I could not enter the bank’s building today due to hundreds of protesting employees,” the e-mail said, according to a bank employee, who was not authorized to speak to the media and asked not to be named.
Amer was joined by two of his deputies and the bank’s head of human resources, according to the message. It was not clear whether the resignations have been accepted. But Sunday evening, Egyptian state television announced that the country’s lenders would be shut down until Wednesday.
The announcement asked employees to consider the national interest in the wake of the revolt that drove longtime President Hosni Mubarak from office on Friday. The military council that took power from Mubarak has urged Egyptians to help bolster the country’s economy, which had been paralyzed during the protests.
Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s ambassador to the United States, said Sunday that the new government has made restoring security and reviving commerce its top priorities.
“The Egyptian economy has suffered during this period of unrest, and was suffering from the global recession with a rising unemployment rate,” Shoukry told CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.”
Bank workers complained that members of Mubarak’s family put their allies into positions of power at the bank with grossly inflated salaries. But the National Bank’s headquarters in Cairo continued to function during Sunday’s protests, with disgruntled staff taking turns to work and demonstrate.
There were reports of protests at branches of the Bank of Alexandria and the Bank of Egypt as well.
And hundreds of police officers launched demonstrations outside Interior Ministry headquarters on Sunday to demand higher wages, shorter hours, better benefits and more respect, participants told CNN. The protesters faced off with a cordon of Egyptian troops outside the ministry Sunday evening.
They currently earn 500 Egyptian pounds (about $85) a month — a quarter of what army troops of comparable rank earn, they said. They, too, want to earn 2,000 pounds a month, police protesters Mahmoud Tawfiq and Mahmoud Bedwai said.
They also want their hours reduced and to be paid for working overtime, saying they work 12 to 15 hour days and face imprisonment if they refuse to work past the end of their shifts. And they called for free transportation to their job sites and housing once they get there, saying some travel hundreds of miles from Cairo for work at their own expense.
Both low-ranking police officers and administrative staff joined in the protest.