Sunday, November 30, 2008

Workers from the Mahalla Textile Co. & Tanta Flax Co. Launch Sleep-in Protest at Egyptian Trade Union Federation HQ

Some twenty workers/labor activists have conducted a sit-in followed by a sleep-in at the headquarters of the (state controlled) Egyptian Trade Union Federation on November 30-December 1. These worker activists are protesting their dismissals and punitive relocations – from both the Mahalla Textile Company and the Tanta Company for Flax & Oils.

Over the past few weeks, five worker-activists were punitively relocated from the Mahalla Textile Company after having participated in a labor demonstration there on October 30. Kareem El Beheiri was relocated to the company’s branch office in Cairo, Mohammad El Attar relocated to Alexandria, Amal Saeed and Wedad El Demardash were relocated to the company’s on-site nursery; and most recently Wael Habib was ordered to be relocated to Cairo.

Apparently these punitive relocations serve two purposes: to distance worker-activists from the company (in the hopes of diminishing labor unrest,) and to emphasize the message to other workers at the company that punitive measures will be taken against those workers who do protest (in demand of their rights.)

Inside the ETUF headquarters Mohammad El Attar informed me that two other worker-activists from the Mahalla Textile Company - “Saeed Attiya and Mohammad Zare’i were recently forced to resign upon the orders of the administrative board.”

Also within the ETUF headquarters, Kareem El Beheiri led male and female workers into chanting “We won’t leave! Bring-on the police and the prison cells! We won’t leave!” These protesting workers are demanding that the ETUF leadership, specifically President Hussein Megawer, order their re-instatement. Their calls have apparently fallen on deaf ears.

As for the workers from the Tanta Company for Flax & Oils – seven have been sacked from their jobs after they partook in a strike at their company on July 2. Gamal Othman, Ashraf El Harti, Ahmad El Shenawi, Ali Abu Leila, Aqqad Tantawi, Hisham ‘Oqal, and Ra’afat Ramadan were all fired from the company on July 15. ‘Oql and Ramadan are both members of the (eleven member) local union committee at the Tanta Company.

Worker Gamal Othman said that “we were all fired from our jobs in light of this strike. We were fired because we were demanding our rights – specifically our rights to overdue incentive pay, medical compensation pay, and our profit-sharing payments.”

Othman added: “the Tanta Company was privatized three years ago, being sold to - or more accurately - being stolen by a group of Saudi investors. Ever since we have been denied our profit-sharing payments – this despite the fact that the company is making millions of pounds worth of net profits each year.”

“We have contacted Saeed El Gohari (the President of the General Union for Textile Workers) numerous times regarding our complaints and grievances – but nothing has come of our efforts. We want our jobs and rights, that’s why we are sleeping-in here. We have been laid off without pensions or compensations. Since most of us have not been employed at the company for more than (the legally designated) twenty years, we are thus denied access to any sort of pension plan.”

Most of these workers, from both the Mahalla Textile Company and the Tanta Flax Company, announced their intention to participate in the solidarity demonstration due to be held outside the Journalists’ Syndicate on December 1 – at six pm.

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