Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Suez Canal Workers Protest & Strike

Around 2,000 workers from El Ismailiya Port (Utilities) Company launched an eight day sleep-in protest outside their company; from September the 1st until the 9th. The primary demand of these workers was the merger of their company into the Suez Canal Authority - under which this company, and six other canal companies, had previously been affiliated (from 1968-74.)

Workers at the Canal Authority are said to be paid wages that are five times greater than their counterparts at the seven different canal companies, with a 7% annual increase in these wages, with more job security, better benefits, and significantly larger pensions. The local union committee for the Ismailiya Port Company called for a suspension of this protest pending further bargaining and discussions with their company's administration.

Meanwhile, nearly 800 workers from the Port Sa'id Rope Manufacturing Company conducted a protest/strike for three days - from September 7th to the 9th. These workers also demanded that their company be merged with the Suez Canal Authority - or at least that they be granted parity with the wages and benefits of the workers employed at the Authority. These workers suspended their protest/strike during the earliest hours of September the 1oth, pending their local union committee's discussions with the Rope Company Administration. The Local Union Treasurer, Ashraf Abdel Hadi, said that "If no progress is made in these discussions by Sunday (Sept. 14) then we shall launch a full-blown strike."

Workers' wages in both of these companies are unrealistically low. At the Ismailiya Port Company Sobhi Mohammad Ahmad exclaimed "I have been working at this company for sixteen years now, and my total monthly wage - including my basic wage, bonuses, and incentive pay - is only LE429.30!" While in Port Sa'id, outside the Suez Canal Rope Company, Abbass Moussa said "I have been working at this company for twenty years now and I only get LE 500 per month. I have three children to raise and a monthly rent of LE100. How am I to live and support my family on LE 500 in this day and age?"

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