Monday, July 23, 2012

Mahalla workers strike again!

Thu, 19/07/2012

Jano Charbel 

MAHALLA — Around 23,000 workers at Egypt’s largest textile company, the Misr Company for Spinning and Weaving, began an open-ended strike Sunday, in the first strike at the company since the revolutionary ferment of last year.

A few hundred workers and their families milled around outside the huge plant Tuesday, barely able to raise a chant in the scorching heat. Sitting beneath makeshift tents not yet adorned with slogans, talk turned to the financial pressures of Ramadan and the costs of supplementary schooling for children.

Yet Egypt Independent found that the strikers’ frustration is not only with the management of their failing employer, whom they accuse of corruption and incompetence. They are also increasingly frustrated with the political movements that say they want to support or assist the workers, while some of them maintain that their act is one that defies political authority and hence is political.

The workers are demanding 12 months’ worth of overdue profit-sharing payments, along with the removal and replacement of leading figures in the Egyptian Holding Company for Textile Industries. 

They also called for the purging of the company’s upper administrative layer, improved medical services, augmented “rise of living expenses” payments, and increased investment in the huge but faltering textile company. They further demand a minimum wage of LE1,200.

State authorities have told the strikers that their demands would be addressed by Thursday. Workers speaking to Egypt Independent regarded that prospect with cynicism.

Company-worker disputes

“We demand the immediate removal of the corrupt chief of the textile holding company, Fouad Abdel Aleem, and his henchmen,” said worker and activist Kamal al-Fayoumy. “Our company incurred unprecedented losses when Abdel Aleem was in charge.”

Fayoumy said about LE400 million were squandered or lost during Abdel Aleem’s three years at the helm of this massive industrial complex.

Another worker, Hassan Atef, said that “corruption is rampant within our company and especially within the holding company.”

Nonetheless, Abdel Aleem has said the holding company is seeking to meet the demands of 

Mahalla’s striking workers by Thursday. Pending approval from ministries, Abdel Aleem has offered to provide LE65 million in bonuses to 69,000 workers employed at 32 different public-sector textile companies — an average bonus of about LE942 per worker.

“This is less than we are asking for. Our demands are clear, and we won’t call off our strike until our demands are met,” said worker Mahmoud Abdel Galeel.

However, the holding company has indicated that all of Egypt’s public-sector textile companies are incurring losses, and thus there are no profits to be shared.

Workers such as Abdel Galeel, however, are bitter, and in no mood for excuses.

“Several years ago, our company used to make large profit margins from our production. It is not our fault that our company is incurring losses. We show up every working day and produce according to the production plans laid out for us,” he said.

But the fact remains that the Misr Company for Spinning and Weaving is in serious trouble.

“Just two textile factories out of eight are currently being operated,” worker Mohamed Ezz Eddin shouted. “They are not providing us with enough Egyptian long-staple cotton or other raw materials needed for production.”

Throughout Egypt, the textile industry as a whole is in serious trouble, and the Misr Company is no exception.

ETUF enough?

Workers agreed that their local union committee was not standing up for their rights or demands. Their local union is affiliated with the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF).

Mahalla’s workers went on strike in December 2006, following nationwide trade union elections, widely considered to be rigged, which took place in October and November of that year. That strike sparked an unprecedented wave of strikes that have continued until now.

Workers agreed, however, that they were not seriously considering quitting the state-controlled federation or joining the ranks of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions.

“We are wary of dividing the unity of our company. We could be confronted with a serious problem if we have more than one union committee in our workplace,” Abdel Galeel said. “It could lead to schisms and infighting, which would result in our decline as a unified fighting force.”

Emad al-Araby, deputy secretary general of the independent federation, said his organization “cannot speak on behalf of Mahalla’s textile workers.” He added that workers’ union affiliations were up to them, and voiced the federation’s support for the strike.

Workers from the Mit Ghamr Textile Company, who have been on strike for a week now, have openly expressed solidarity with their fellow textile workers on strike in Mahalla, Araby said. The company sent a delegation to stand in solidarity with the Mahalla strikers. Workers of both companies met to discuss their common demands and coordinate pressure, showcasing a strong level of organization across factories.

Mahalla workers said other employees of public textile companies have also expressed their support and solidarity with the strike, including the Shibin al-Kom, Kafr al-Dawwar, Helwan, Nasr, Samanoud and Damietta textile companies.

Politics or no politics?

Abdel Galeel said the Manpower Ministry, Mahalla’s mayor, and a couple of former MPs and political activists have been attempting to negotiate with Mahalla’s striking workers to address their grievances and halt the strike.

“We have chosen to distance ourselves from political parties or their agendas,” said Abdel Galeel.

A group of workers admitted that they had turned away former MP Mahmoud Tawfiq of the Muslim 
Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, at the gates when he attempted to enter the company Monday, but they denied that workers had assaulted him with shoes, as some media reports claimed.

“We turned him away because he wasn’t offering us any assistance. Tawfiq was merely asking about our demands, although our demands have been published in numerous newspapers and are well-known to all,” Abdel Galeel said.

Other workers said Tawfiq was not interested in resolving their problems, but was merely attempting to score political points for the FJP by capitalizing on their strike.

Abdel Galeel added that Saad al-Husseini, another one of Mahalla’s former MPs from the FJP, “didn’t even bother to visit us. He’s in Cairo, where he’s been in contact with some workers via mobile phone. In any case, he is not welcome here.”

Some workers referred to Tawfiq and Husseini as “opportunists.”

Hassan Atef said members of the April 6 Youth Movement “also attempted to jump onto our strike and have sought to make political gains for themselves by doing so.” Atef pointed to the fact that this movement was named after a strike called by Mahalla workers on 6 April 2008.

On that occasion, the youth movement had endorsed Mahalla’s strike and called for a general one nationwide. State security forces had thwarted the strike in Mahalla on 6 April. But their heavy-handed tactics led to a popular uprising in the city on 6 and 7 April 2008, an event seen as one of the precursors to the 25 January revolution.

Worker Mostafa Halfaty raised the prospect of another local uprising in the near future. “We are willing to escalate our industrial actions if our demands are not met. Our protest may come to encompass the entirety of Mahalla city,” he said.

He said the workers were not interested in the “political maneuvers” of the Brotherhood, April 6, or any other groups.

“We have refused to join in politicized actions, such as calls for strikes to bring down Mubarak and activists’ calls for a general strike [on 11 February this year],” Halfaty said.

But his fellow worker, Ezz Eddin, disagreed. “We helped to bring down Mubarak, and we are willing to take down any other tyrant who tramples over our rights,” Eddin said.

Atef, also on the picket line, agreed. “[President Mohamed] Morsy spoke of realizing genuine social justice in the country. But if he fails to assist Egypt’s largest textile company and its 23,000 workers, then he is not making good on his promises,” he said.

This piece was originally published in Egypt Independent's weekly print edition.

Labor unrest spreads in Egypt's textile industries


Labor unrest spreads in Egypt's textile sector

Wed, 18/07/2012

Strikes brought a swathe of Egypt's state textile industry to a halt on Wednesday, workers and a labor activist said, disrupting production of a key export as the country hovers on the brink of a balance of payments crisis.

Around 23,000 employees of Misr Spinning and Weaving, Egypt's biggest textile company, took their strike into a fourth day and were joined by some 12,000 workers at other state firms, labor activist Hamdy Hussein said.

A sprawling complex in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla, Misr Spinning and Weaving was the focus of protests in 2008 that sparked a wave of strikes now widely seen as a catalyst for the street revolt that ended the rule of Hosni Mubarak last year.

Mubarak's overthrow, driven by popular anger at poverty and corruption, raised hopes for better pay and conditions among workers, especially in the textile sector which has suffered from tough competition from private and overseas rivals.

Strikes spread in the weeks after the uprising, helping send the economy into a tailspin from which it has yet to fully recover. The broad labor unrest abated but sporadic strikes continue.

Egypt's balance of payments slid deeper into the red in the first nine months of the 2011-2012 fiscal year, with a deficit of US$11.2 billion.

The textile strikes are an early test for newly elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsy as he strives to form a cabinet to replace the army-backed interim administration so he can start tackling the faltering economy.

"The coming revolution will correct the path of the first one. It will be a labor revolution. Workers sparked the first revolution, then it was stolen from them," said Hussein, referring to how left-wing groups have been crowded out by Islamists and the army since Mubarak was ousted.

He estimated that Egypt had around 300,000 textile workers, including 100,000 in the state sector.
Misr Spinning and Weaving employees told Reuters they had been expecting delegations from the ministries of industry and labor to head to Mahalla to negotiate, but none had arrived.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 have staged an open-ended sit-in at the factory to call for a rise in basic wages, a purge of corrupt officials and better conditions at the firm's hospital.

They want an increase in their share of company profits and basic pay of at least LE1,500 (US$250) per month. They say their pay currently ranges from LE700 to LE1,000.

They set up tents on Wednesday to ward off sweltering summer heat and put up posters listing demands, complaining of a slide into poverty and poor health and demanding the government bring social justice for the sector.

Labor unrest has also hit the country's ceramics sector. Disputes between workers and management at Ceramica Cleopatra, one of Egypt's biggest privately owned ceramics firms, led to clashes between police and workers in Suez city on Tuesday.

Similar, smaller protests have been staged in front of the presidential palace in Cairo since Morsy's election last month.

No longer off-limits to protest - Presidential palace

Egypt Independent

No longer off limits: Presidential palace becomes a new space of protest

July 14, 2012

Jano Charbel

Shortly before being sworn in, President Mohamed Morsy professed a desire to keep in touch with the demands of the people, even after he entered the presidential palace.
“My door is open to all citizens, and I am in constant contact with you,” he said, in a rousing speech in Tahrir Square.
Thousands appear to have taken Morsy’s message literally.
Under the heat of Cairo’s blazing summer sun, protesters congregated around the presidential palace in the affluent Heliopolis neighborhood. The site was once a highly militarized zone, which regular passers-by were barely allowed to look at.
But since Morsy he took office on 30 June, the presidential palace has been besieged by protesters. Ceramics and tile factory workers, tax collectors, the disabled and people with special needs, law graduates, prisoners’ families, environmental activists and a host of others have taken their grievances to the president’s doorstep.
Today, thousands pin their hopes on Morsy. It is a clear indication of how much the president, in a state that is striving to be modernized and institutions-based, remains perceived as the sole savior.
Morsy and his staff, meanwhile, are still figuring out how to deal with the endless stream of demands coming their way.
Acting presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali said on 4 July that Morsy ordered the establishment of a “bureau of appeals” entrusted with collecting popular complaints from citizens nationwide.
Ali said three of these bureaus have been established in Cairo at the presidential palaces in Heliopolis, Abdeen and Qasr al-Qubba, to be followed by additional ones across the country.
To streamline the complaint procedures, Ali said an official website for the presidency would be launched during the second week of July through which citizens can submit complaints. The site is still under construction.
Morsy has made efforts to meet some protesters’ demands.
Last week, more than a thousand workers from Ceramica Cleopatra’s two companies in 10th of Ramadan City and Ain Sokhna protested against their employer, Mohamed Abul Enein, saying he failed to pay their wages and overdue profit-sharing payments, and fired workers. A delegation of trade unionists from the two companies presented their demands to the president and his staff on 2 July.
“I had the honor of personally meeting with his Excellency President Morsy and his staff for half an hour last week,” said Mokhtar Abdel Salam, a worker who had been fired and the president of the local union for the 10th of Ramadan Company. “The president and his staff have been actively seeking to resolve our disputes with Abul Enein.”
The ceramics workers received reassurances from the presidential palace that their grievances would be addressed within 48 hours. However, Abdel Salam acknowledged that talk of a presidential decree to establish a caretaker committee for the administration of Ceramica Cleopatra factories failed to materialize.
Morsy is left hamstrung between the huge number of complaints directed at him and his inevitable inability to address them all. In addition to dealing with various grievances, the president is currently engaged in a power struggle with the military over the future of Parliament, the constitution and the division of power between civilian forces and the military.
Hassan al-Brince, a leading Brotherhood member who denounced the protests in front of Orouba Palace as “a conspiracy to bring down President Mohamed Morsy,” also said the protests “are intended to show that Morsy is incapable of meeting demands.” He said counter-revolutionary agents were paying protesters to create chaos in front the presidential palace.
Whether Brince is right about the cause of the protests, he is likely correct in his analysis of how satisfied people will be with Morsy’s ability to get them their jobs returned or contracts renegotiated. The expectations from the president are ripe, and certainly higher than before, with Morsy priding himself on being the president of the revolution.
Some protesters near the palace took advantage of their new-found freedom at the presidential palace by shouting, “Inzel ya Morsyyy” (Come down Morsy), a shout unlikely to have been heard during Mubarak’s rule.
For Adel Abdel Khaleq, a pharmacist standing outside the protests at Morsy’s palace, the difference is radical.
“During the days of Hosni [Mubarak], nobody could even walk past the presidential palace,” said Abdel Khaleq. “Nowadays, protesters are surrounding the palace, even climbing its walls.”

Sacked workers of Egypt attempt to unite

Egypt Independent

Sacked workers of Egypt attempt to unite

Friday - July 13, 2012

Jano Charbel

Around 100 members of the "Sacked Workers' Front" convened for their first conference on Wednesday, with the stated goal of reinstating some 12,000 workers and employees who have been punitively laid off from work for demanding improved working and/or living conditions.

The front’s four primary goals are the reinstatement of fired workers, full-time contracts for full-time work, compensating dismissed workers and re-nationalization of privatized companies.

According to their online declaration, further objectives include demanding an end to punitive layoffs, dismissals, and relocation, as well as military trials for protesting workers, among other “systematically punitive measures."

This week, the Sacked Workers’ Front filed an appeal to the public prosecutor’s office regarding employers’ violations of labor rights and industrial safety measures, along with documented evidence of financial irregularities and/or unpaid wages.

According to the front’s page on Facebook, this group has also presented their demands to President Mohamed Morsy and his staff, whom they hope will support their demands "if they really believe in social justice."

Despite its clear objectives, disagreements have hovered over the Sacked Workers’ Front, especially regarding the sponsors of this latest effort. Some labor activists working toward similar objectives over the past three years claim that this front is an attempt by the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) to hijack their previous efforts and claim them as their own.

According to Karim Reda, a worker-activist and blogger fired from his job around three years ago at the Petrotrade Company, which is affiliated with the Petroleum Ministry, "We are looking to revive previous efforts for the reinstatement of punitively sacked workers."

Reda pointed out that there had been a campaign for dismissed workers’ rights dubbed Mesh Hankhaf (We won’t be afraid) organized by the independent Tadamon (Solidarity) Network. "Yet as far as I’m aware, this campaign has ceased to function since the 25 January Revolution."

Being one of the organizers in the Sacked Workers’ Front, Reda claimed that this latest initiative came from a group of labor journalists in the (left-leaning) Tagammu Party. “It was not organized by the ETUF. They only authorized the staging of our conference at their Workers’ University."

At the front’s first conference, tens of sacked workers from different companies and sectors spoke of their grievances and how they could coordinate their labor struggles.

The conference at the Workers’ University in the Nasr City district of Cairo was attended by fired workers from private sector companies, a number of privatized companies, and a handful of public sector service companies.

Amongst those present were workers sacked from multinational companies, including the Suzuki Motor Corporation and the petroleum services company Schlumberger. A host of workers from different public sector gas and petroleum companies also attended the conference, along with workers from private (and privatized) textile companies, an electronic appliances company, tobacco and food processing factories, as well as iron and steel works.

The founding members of the Sacked Workers Front hail from Alexandria, Cairo, Giza, Monufiya, Fayoum, and Sadat Industrial City, although some founders pulled out of the front upon learning that the ETUF was involved in this initiative.

"We chose to pull out of the front because it is being organized by the ETUF," said Ragab al-Sheemy, a laborer at the Shebin al-Kom Textiles Company.

"Although many of our coworkers have been sacked, and we are on our way to joblessness, and although our [local trade union] committee is affiliated to the ETUF, we have chosen to distance ourselves from this campaign, as it is merely an attempt on their behalf to capitalize on workers’ grievances," he added.

Sheemy stressed that the members who left the front "refuse to coordinate or work with [ETUF President] Ahmed Abdel Zaher. Furthermore, from experience we know that the ETUF will not help us be reinstated in our jobs. Nor will it help re-operate our company."

However, a sacked worker from the TeleMisr Company, Saadiya Mahmoud, said that the Sacked Workers’ Front is independently organized and not affiliated to any party or union.

"Although we are dues-paying members of the ETUF, they did not sponsor our conference, nor did they attend it." Mahmoud asserted.

"This front may bring about progressive changes and reclaim workers rights, yet it is not likely to succeed in reinstating 72 workers sacked from the Petrotrade Company; or other public sector petroleum companies," Reda said.

He explained that these 72 workers were punitively laid off for demanding the establishment of local trade unions at the Petrotrade Companies, while others were sacked from work during their (conscripted) military service and still others were fired for protesting in demand of full-time contracts and/or improved working conditions.

According to Fatma Ramadan, a labor organizer with Tadamon and the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions: "If they have enough participants from enough companies and sectors then this front may succeed. Otherwise, it will likely end up being isolated and marginalized."

Ramadan expressed her dismay regarding the front’s coordination with the Tagammu Party and the ETUF. "We have been coordinating with many of these sacked workers through the Mesh Hankhaf campaign for over two years. Given that the ETUF has let them down so many times before, I don’t understand why they’d move back into the ETUF’s sphere of influence?"

Mahmoud, however, argued that the front is not moving into the ETUF’s sphere of influence. "We tried to book a conference hall in the Journalists Syndicate, but they told us it would cost LE10,000. Given that we are unemployed, we did not have this sort of money to dish out."

The Sacked Workers’ Front held its first conference at the Workers’ University "because the ETUF offered to let us use the conference hall at the university free of charge," Mahmoud insisted. "We only want to organize ourselves for our rights and for the rights of our country. First and foremost, we are concerned about the welfare of our company and our national economy."

Hanafy Eid, treasurer of the TeleMisr local union committee, said, "We did not have enough participants at this first conference to make enough of a difference. Moreover, ETUF representatives were not present at this conference, although we had hoped that they would be."

Eid pinned his hopes on Egypt’s new president. “We have hope that President Morsy can help us regain our basic rights. We expect that the new president and his policies will support those workers who have been punitively sacked, and we hope that his policies will be able to revitalize the economy, including the public, private, and informal sectors.”

“The Sacked Workers’ Front hopes for a larger turnout in order to better represent Egypt’s 12,000 sacked workers. We hope for a better organized second conference [scheduled for 15 August]," Eid added.

"I don’t know where they’re getting this figure of 12,000 sacked workers from," Ramadan said. "We know of around 500 workers who were sacked due to their labor activism, or were punitively laid off for their unionism. However, is difficult to gauge the actual number of punitively sacked workers or employees across the country."

Ramadan concluded that "this number could be exponentially higher than 12,000 if you include all the companies that have ceased production, have been downsized, or liquidated."

Nagy Rashad, an independent member of the ETUF’s caretaker board, confirmed that the state-controlled union had indeed organized this conference under its auspices. "The ETUF may have hosted the front as a publicity act or a media show."

“I don’t know what the intentions of this front are, but they have put the burden of responsibility on the ETUF’s shoulders. This federation is being put to the test once again," said Rashad.

"I support independent unionism, even if it is held under the auspices of the Workers’ University," he added. "The ETUF now bears the burden of reinstating those workers who were punitively sacked from their workplaces."

Rashad is "not very optimistic regarding the reclamation of sacked workers’ rights via the ETUF... in light of the policies of business tycoons like [Ceramica Cleopatra owner] Mohamed Abul Enein who are threatening to shut down their companies and lay off thousands more workers."

"We will work to make sure that such mass layoffs do not take place. We hope that the front will be able to help workers organize themselves. We also hope for a better organized conference next month. Such initiatives require support from unions, political parties and NGOs."

*Photograph by Mohamed al-Garnousy

Workers confront Mubara-era boss in 'Battle of Camel' Trial

Egypt Independent  

Employees confront Mubarak-era boss accused in ‘Battle of the Camel’

July 13, 2012

Jano Charbel

More than a thousand Ceramica Cleopatra workers protested outside the presidential palace last week, demanding unpaid wages, overdue bonuses and profit-sharing payments. Worker representatives met with presidential staff and newly elected President Mohamed Morsy to demand support in their battle with ceramics industry tycoon Mohamed Abul Enein.

Union delegates said Monday night that the president and his staff were “seeking a resolution to this impasse within the next 48 hours, God willing.”

Abul Enein served as an MP in Hosni Mubarak’s now-defunct National Democratic Party and as chairman of the People’s Assembly Industry and Energy Committee. Now he is confronted with protests and industrial action at his two companies, located in 10th of Ramadan City and Ain Sokhna.

Since the 25 January revolution, Abul Enein has been summoned for questioning in corruption cases but has not been found guilty. He still faces charges of instigating the armed attacks on Tahrir Square on 2 and 3 February during the revolution, an event often called the “Battle of the Camel.”

And as he has come under increasing legal pressure, Abul Enein has increasingly neglected his companies' workers.

A stranded whale

Ceramica Cleopatra Group, Egypt’s largest producer of tiles and sanitary ware, is also a regional and international exporter. In 1983, the first of Abul Enein’s factories began production in 10th of Ramadan City, outside Cairo. Over the years, the company grew and diversified to include several additional factories and employ some 4,500 workers.

Then, in 1999, the industrialist opened his second company in the port city of Ain Sokhna on the Red Sea. This company quickly became Abul Enein’s flagship enterprise, producing three times the capacity of his first company. It employs a workforce of about 5,700.

Apart from ceramics, Abul Enein is also involved in agriculture, tourism, real estate and media. Neither he nor his administrators were available for comment on this article.

Workers at Abul Enein’s ceramic companies say the industrialist is using his economic clout — by withholding wages and threatening his workforce with sackings and the closure of his companies — to bid for an acquittal in the Battle of the Camel trial.

“This whale of a businessman is using us, and his companies, to get himself out of the trial. He’s trying to send the authorities the message, ‘If you rule against me, I’ll take my companies down with me,’” said Mohamed Anwar, secretary general of the local trade union committee at Ain Sokhna Company.

But Anwar said Abul Enein would never liquidate the two ceramics companies and was just using them to “throw his economic weight around.” Apparently in response to his threats, a court has imposed a travel ban on Abul Enein.

“Abul Enein is trying to twist our arms, so we will twist his,” Anwar said. “We workers, at both the Ramadan and Sokhna companies, are resisting his injustices.”

Ragab Hussein, a worker at the 10th of Ramadan City factory, said the timing was no coincidence. 
 He said Abul Enein has refused to pay his 10,000 workers their June monthly wages, which was due 1 July, because of his next court hearing.

Holding up signs, flags and banners, Hussein’s co-workers chanted “Abul Enein is a thief” and “If you manage to escape the Battle of the Camel trial, you will not escape the workers.”

“Beyond this trial, nobody knows Abul Enein’s real intentions,” Hussein said. “He might be trying to confront President Morsy, or perhaps he’s attempting to strike a deal with the new regime to retain his economic and political influence.”

Shouting in anger, two workers said Abul Enein spent LE7 million supporting Ahmed Shafiq’s presidential bid, yet was unwilling to pay his own workers’ wages.

Ghareeb Salah, a worker from Ain Sokhna Company, promised that workers would escalate their protests if their demands were not met. He said workers had blocked Al-Orouba Street that day for about half an hour.
“We don’t like to resort to such actions, but we must have the authorities hear our angry voices,” Salah said.
Since the revolution, thousands of Abul Enein’s factory workers have repeatedly protested. They launched their first strike at Ain Sokhna Company in early March of this year, where they demanded that the company fulfill a promise to institute profit-sharing arrangements.

On 16 March, Abul Enein entered into an arbitration agreement with his workers and the Manpower Ministry. He agreed to pay his labor force its overdue profit-sharing payments. However, he has only given his workers one installment of these payments and has not fulfilled other labor demands that he had pledged to meet at the ministry.

“We’re still producing at the factories, but we’re stockpiling the production and now allowing it to be sold,” Anwar said. “Until we receive our rights, we’re not allowing his trucks in at either company. We’re halting sales, distribution and export.”

Abul Enein imposed a lockout on Ain Sokhna Company for 11 days in May. He did the same at the 10th of Ramadan City Company during the first week of June. The purpose of these lockouts is not known. In response, workers demonstrated and blocked highways.

Thousands of workers at Ceramica Cleopatra are pinning their hopes on their newly established labor unions, while others hope the new president and his socioeconomic policies will help them.
Anwar recalled that he and a delegation of workers from Ain Sokhna Company met with President Morsy in mid-May while he was campaigning for president in Suez.

“Morsy listened to our demands and took note of our grievances,” said Anwar, who voted for the new president. “If Morsy neglects us or fails to uphold our rights, then we will take our protests to Arbaeen Square [in Suez] and Tahrir Square to topple him, just like his predecessor.”

Unions’ role

Yasser Hassan, an administrative worker at Ain Sokhna Company, said he believes labor unions might play a more important role in defending workers’ rights than the new president can.
“Our primary gains at the company have been the establishment of a union and increased wages,” Hassan said.

He said the union had fought for workers’ rights and managed to increase their wages from an average of LE450 per month in 2006 to the current average of LE1,300.

Emboldened by the revolution, the Ain Sokhna workers established their union in April last year, while the 10th of Ramadan City workers followed suit two months later.

Anwar said that the local union they had established was an affiliate of the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation, but that they could switch to an independent federation if necessary.

The situation at 10th of Ramadan City Company appears bleaker. Mokhtar Abdel Salam, president of the local union committee, said the company administration fired six out of seven unionists, including himself, as well as two other workers.
“The eight of us have been accused of instigating unrest,” said Abdel Salem. “When we demand our rights, he refers to us as being instigators, animals and thugs. Nevertheless, we will continue to seek our rights.”

Workers at Abul Enein’s factories are also demanding improved health insurance and healthcare services, and workplace-hazard compensation. Standing under the hot sun outside the presidential palace, Omar Bahtimy — a production-line worker at the 10th of Ramadan City factory — said more than 950 workers at the two companies suffer from work-related ailments.

Two workers reportedly died in industrial accidents over the past decade, while about 10 are said to have lost fingers. Furthermore, Bahtimy and many other workers said the element zirconium — used in the production of ceramics — often contains radioactive impurities that could lead to cancer.

“Workers, especially those in production, suffer from numerous health problems, including respiratory illnesses from the dusts we inhale, along with spinal ailments from carrying heavy loads and operating heavy machinery,” Bahtimy said.

Morsi's praise of generals alienates revolutionaries

Ahram Online
Morsi's praise of army generals leaves some revolutionaries cold 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

President Mohamed Morsi's inauguration speech at Cairo University on Saturday left a number of revolutionaries disappointed at what they considered to be his conciliatory words towards the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

During the speech, Morsi thanked both the Armed Forces and the SCAF for successfully guarding the country's interests since the fall of Mubarak.  

"I left the speech disappointed," said Mohamed El-Kassas, a member of the liberal-Islamist Egyptian Current Party and former member of the Muslim Brotherhood. "It was much weaker than the one he gave in Tahrir Square [on Friday]. We were told to be quiet when we started to chant against military rule in the university hall, and he complimented the military council too much."  

The SCAF has been accused by revolutionaries and some human rights groups of committing multiple violations against human rights and stifling the transition to democracy to secure special priviiges in a new Egypt.

Ahmed Maher of the April 6 Youth Movement, who had supported Morsi in the president election runoff, told Ahram Online he was dissatisfied with the speech.

"In the Friday speech [in Tahrir Square], Morsi talked of the legitimacy of the revolution…his speech was reassuring…today, on the contrary, it was too political," said Maher whose group was once accused by the SCAF of receiving foreign funding to undermine stability in the country.

Maher added that he was unhappy to hear Morsi thank the SCAF and when audience members chanted against the junta they were shouted down by pro-SCAF chants of "the people and the military are one hand."

"[Morsi] thanking the SCAF only made our position weaker," complained Maher.
Prominent activist Nawara Negm wrote on her official Twitter account that she was thankful she had refused an invitation to attend the speech.

"Thank God I refused to go," said Negm who was targeted by the SCAF at one point for her criticism of the generals.

Negm added that she declined the invitation after she learned members of the SCAF would be attending the speech.

El-Kassas added that in comparison to his speech on Friday, Morsi's speech on Saturday was too complementary to the SCAF and too full of contradictions.

"Why did he say Egypt would not export the revolution after he had just stressed that defending freedom was an important goal? Egypt played an important role in influencing other Arab revolutions so why did he have to make such a statement," remarked El-Kassas.

Activist Asmaa Mahfouz, who boycotted the elections but called for people to support Morsi after his electoral win to help him achieve the revolution's goals, also said she was glad she did not attended the inauguration speech.

"After I heard the chants in support of the armed forces and Morsi repeatedly thanking the SCAF, I was relieved I didn't go," said Mahfouz who had faced questioning by military prosecutors for her anti-SCAF positions.

Although she had initially planned to attend what she described as a "historic moment," Mahfouz decided not to attend when she learned Morsi would be swearing his oath of presidential office before the High Constitutional Court (HCC) as mandated by the SCAF's 17 June constitutional addendum after the generals dissolved parliament.

"How can I be against the constitutional declaration addendum [which limits presidential powers], then celebrate Morsi's inauguration after he swore the oath at the court?" remarked Mahfouz.
Mohamed Morsi swore his oath of office at the court rather than the parliament due to article 30 of the constitutional addendum issued by the SCAF on 17 June 2012. The SCAF dissolved the parliament with the same addendum.

Morsi's decision to take the oath in court was an implicit acceptance of the addendum, according to critics, although this has been denied by several Brotherhood members.

Morsi has made three speeches in recent days: on Friday in Tahrir Square, and on Saturday at Cairo University and the Hikestep military training headquarters.  

At the Hikestep speech, Morsi, again, thanked the SCAF for its role in maintaining national security during the transition period and promised to honour its members in a special ceremony at the end of their tenure.