Monday, March 22, 2010

Ahmonseto workers win; Disabled persons still demonstrating

Jobless workers from the Ahmonseto Textile Company called off their 21 day sleep-in protest outside the Shoura Council - on Sunday, March 21 - after winning a written agreement from the Labor Ministry which met their demands.

The workers demanded that the Labor Ministry liquidate the company and provide early-retirement packages, and that Bank Misr - which took possession of this company when its owner fled the country - compensate them.

Some 1,700 workers at this company - located in the Tenth of Ramadan Industrial City - suddenly found themselves jobless when owner Adel Agha fled the country (and a lengthy prison sentence) two years ago. Since that time 1,200 jobless workers have actively been demanding the liquidation of the company.

Another 500 workers, employed in a subsidiary company within Ahmonseto known as - the Economic Company for Industrial Development, had managed to run their production lines under a system of workers' self-management. These 500 workers self-managed three production lines for dyeing and embroidery.

They were able to operate these production lines because they were the least capital-intensive operations. They secured piecework orders from small-scale investors and exporters, but their demand was not reliable, and as a result production was not steady. Furthermore, the Bank and the utility companies expected these workers to pay Agha's outstanding debts and bills.

With the liquidation of Ahmonseto came the natural liquidation of its subsidiary, the Economic Company for Industrial Development. This brings a rare experiment in workers' self-management to an end.

Meanwhile over a dozen disabled persons and their family members have been sleeping outside Parliament for their 30th consecutive day (as of Monday, March 22.) On Sunday a police officer assaulted two of these disabled persons who crossed the street to shout their demands at parliamentarians.

In their wheelchairs and on crutches, these protesters chanted slogans against police brutality, and in demand of their rights. Their demands include the provision of housing units for the disabled, and kiosks or other employment opportunities.

Authorities, including the Governorate of Cairo and the Ministry of Social Solidarity, have called on these protesters to end their demo before engaging in agreements for assistance. From her wheelchair, "Om Noura" shouted: "why is the government disregarding these basic demands of ours?"

"The Ministry of Social Solidarity has offered us no solidarity whatsoever, and the spokesmen from the Cairo Governorate are full of hot air and empty promises, as for the Ministry of Health immediately behind us here, they offer us absolutely nothing - in fact they have even prevented us from using their restrooms. Meanwhile the Interior Ministry calls in its officers to assault us."

She added "we are only demanding our right to life, and our right to live in dignity so that we can provide for ourselves and for our children. Just one small housing unit for each disabled person and their family, a kiosk or a work opportunity? The laws stipulate that governmental institutions and companies are to employ a minimum of disabled persons amounting to 5% Is that too much to ask for?"