Some 10,000 workers (around 15,000 workers according to other estimates) staged a protest within the massive Mahalla Textile Company on the afternoon of Thursday, October 30. This is the first act of labor unrest to take place in the company since September 2007. The Egyptian State’s security apparatuses had threatened and forced textile workers in this Nile Delta City to call of a strike which had been planned for April 6, 2008. Although the security apparatuses had managed to forcefully break this strike, they could not prevent local residents from taking to the streets in a popular uprising on that same day (the uprising lasted from April 6th to the 7th - during which security forces killed two young men, seriously wounded dozens of others, and imprisoned hundreds more.)
“Thousands of workers chanted against the negligence and failed policies implemented by (the temporary Administrative Chief of the Mahalla Textile Company) Fouad Hasaan” said Karim El Beheiri, an administrative worker at the company who had been imprisoned for several weeks after the foiled strike of April 6. El Beheiri went on to say “we chanted: Erhal erhal ya Fouad! (Resign/depart o’ Fouad!)”
“Plain-clothed security forces were present en masse within and throughout the company today,” said El Beheiri, “they locked (the leftist worker-activist) Gihad Tamman inside his office and prevented him from leaving or participating in the protest. Security forces were trailing me both inside and outside the company.”
According to a statement issued by an independent workers’ league within the company – “losses amounting to 144 million Egyptian Pounds were recently incurred” under the administration led by Fouad Hasaan. This statement also declared that the policies of the infamously unpopular (former Administrative Council President) Mahmoud El Gebali were better than those of his successor.
Numerous workers fear that Fouad Hasaan’s policies are aimed at intentionally incurring losses – so that the administration may lay off further workers (via early retirement plans) and so as to pave the wave for the eventual privatization of the company. The Mahalla Textile Company has been at the center of labor activism – which has spread to industrial enterprises across Egypt from this center – for decades. Thousands of Egyptian workers in both the public and private sectors have been influenced by the courage, strength, and unity of El Mahalla’s workers. The Mahalla Company is the largest textile enterprise in Egypt; it currently employs some 24,000 workers.