Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Egyptian Workers in Crisis

Around 100 worker-delegates and trade unionists converged upon the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) in downtown Cairo on Monday, June 8th in hopes of winning concessions or resolving crises at their companies.

Workers from the Ahmonseto Textile Company, The Tanta Flax & Oils Company, The Salemco Textile Company, and the Egyptian Telephone Production Company have been suffering crises at their workplaces for months and, in some cases, years. Delegates from these companies met with ETUF President Hussein Megawer (a pro-capitalist MP from the ruling party,) and the presidents of their respective general unions, in hopes of governmental intercession.

Upon leaving the ETUF headquarters, a number of these worker-delegates said that "Megawer is merely giving us another dose of pain-killers." The roots of their problems were not addressed.

Some 1,700 workers at the Ahmonseto Textile Company have been seeking to liquidate this company and receive compensations, or early retirement packages - given that the owner, Adel Agha, fled the country (along with a lengthy prison sentence) around three years ago.

The Tanta Flax & Oils Company was privatized several years ago and sold to a Saudi investor, Abdel Ellah El Kahki, who has since sacked striking workers and imposed a lock-out in the company.

The Telephone Company was similarly privatized and sold to a Jordanian Investor, Ayman Hegawi, who mismanaged this previously profitable company and incurred millions of pounds worth of debts. He has since ceased all production and operations at this company, and has refused to pay workers their overdue wages, or to provide them with early retirement packages/compensations.

These workers argue that the President of their Local Union Committee, Mahmoud Sobeih, who is also the Secretary-General of the General Union of Engineering Industries, is misrepresenting them in negotiations. The telephone company workers began signing a petition by which to issue a vote-of-no-confidence against Sobeih if he continues to drag his feet in these negotiations, or if negotiations will end up giving him a disproportionately large compensation settlement - at the expense of manual workers and engineers at this company.

The Salemco Company is a private sector textile enterprise which was similarly mismanaged, and its workers have been seeking their overdue wages and benefits; or otherwise calling for retirement settlements/compensations.

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