Sunday, July 12, 2009

Clashes erupt as textile factory workers strike in Mahalla

Daily News Egypt
By Abdel-Rahman Hussein
First Published: July 12, 2009

CAIRO: Clashes erupted Sunday between security forces and workers of the Aboul Seba’ textile factory in Mahalla after workers went on strike to demand three months of unpaid wages.

Initially, 500 workers gathered in front of the factory Sunday morning and started a strike because they have not been paid for the past three months. Clashes erupted late afternoon when security forces attempted to force workers off the street and onto factory premises. Workers responded by pelting security forces with stones.

Earlier, clashes had broken out for the very same reason and some vehicles were damaged in the process. The roads around the factory were also blocked by the workers but at one point security forces managed to steer them to one side.

Some of the workers were kept in the factory earlier in the day and were prevented from leaving the premises to join their colleagues on strike but left when their shift ended.

Alaa El-Gameel, one of the factory workers on strike, told Daily News Egypt, “People haven’t been paid in three months, the excuse we were given was that factory’s exports had stopped, that they didn’t have the money and they kept telling us to be patient.”

“Ramadan and Eid are coming, and I’m married, I can’t afford to wait any longer,” he added.

El-Gameel is one of over 4,000 workers who work in the three Aboul Seba’ textile factories in Mahalla, each one administered by one brother. The three Aboul Seba’ apparently left to Germany Sunday morning, said El-Gameel.

El-Gameel has been working at the factory for 10 years, earning take home pay of LE 300 bi-weekly. Despite the length of time he has spent at Aboul Seba’ factory, he is not on a long-term contract and remains officially a temporary worker.

Due to their status as temporary workers, “the workers of the Aboul Seba’ factories don’t have health care,” Mahalla blogger Mohammed Maree of told Daily News Egypt.

According to Maree, salaries for the factory workers range form LE 11–19 per day and while official working hours are eight a day, workers often work 12 hours with no overtime.

Additionally, 150 workers have been let off in the past three months

“They are suffering from the lack of pay, an effect of privatization in Egypt. The investor cares about profit at the expense of the workers,” Maree said.

Alaa El-Mahdy, who has been at the factory for 13 years, also on temporary status, told Daily News Egypt, “We want to feed our kids, for three months we have been trying to tell them and the factory administration hasn’t solved anything.”

“The factory hasn’t been exporting since May, but this is not our problem, we deserve pay for our work,” El-Gameel said.


Clashes erupt as textile factory workers strike in Mahalla

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