Egyptian security forces thwarted plans for a strike by about 20,000 textile workers in the Nile Delta on Sunday when hundreds of plainclothes agents took control of the factory, worker activists told Reuters.
Solidarity stoppages and protests in other parts of the country were cancelled or failed to draw widespread support, disrupting attempts to launch a nationwide general strike.
Karim Al Behiry, a blogger who works in the textile factory in Mahalla el-Kubra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Cairo, said the security men made it impossible to protest.
"They are inside and outside the factory and workers who managed to reach the place were taken one by one to their machines and were forced to work," he told Reuters.
"Many workers couldn't reach the factory in the first place because of the security siege," he added.
A workers group at state-owned Misr Spinning and Weaving Company had called for workers across the country to strike on Sunday in solidarity with their demands for wage increases to face recent rises in prices.
Egypt's urban consumer inflation jumped to an 11-month high of 12.1 percent in the year to February. Higher prices for food have hit the poorest Egyptians hardest.
The strike call won overt support only from the anti-government protest movement Kefaya and some small opposition parties and movements. The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood has said that it supported the strike but would not be participating.
On the social networking website Facebook, a group in support of the protest had accumulated more than 60,000 members by Sunday morning.
Security forces arrested 28 people in Cairo, Alexandria and the Nile Delta city of Mansoura late on Saturday and on Sunday as they were distributing leaflets in support of the strike, security sources and a committee of legal observers said.
"These included the opposition blogger Malek Mostafa and members of the frozen Islamic Labor Party," lawyer and human rights activist Gamal Eid told Reuters.
The organizers of the strike have called for demonstrations in main squares in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities to protest declining standards of living, especially among the poor.
But the Interior Ministry threatened to prosecute any strikers or protesters and mobilized thousands of riot police in the streets of Cairo to prevent them.
The security presence was especially strong around Tahrir Square in central Cairo and at the headquarters of the lawyers and journalists association, popular venues for protests.