Saturday, October 31, 2015

Russian plane crash in Egypt: Investigation begins into cause of aviation disaster

The Guardian
Russian plane crash: investigation begins into cause of A321 crash

Islamic State claim 'not accurate' - Russia

Islamic State-linked group 'claims responsibility' for crash

Strikes in two of Egypt's largest textile mills over non-implementation of presidential decree

Mada Masr

Kafr al-Dawwar joins Mahalla textile workers on 5th day of strike

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jano Charbel 


Several thousands of workers at two of Egypt's largest textile companies — the Kafr al-Dawwar Textile Company and the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla al-Kubra — are on strike over unpaid bonuses promised by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Sisi decreed last month that the 10 percent bonuses would be paid retroactively from July to all employees in the public works sector.

Thousands of workers at the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company, located in the Nile Delta Governorate of Gharbiya, have been on strike for the past five days. Thousands of other workers joined them on Sunday, launching an open-ended strike at the Kafr al-Dawwar Textile Company.

In response to the strike in Mahalla, administrators suspended three workers without pay, accusing them of “instigating strike action” and “obstructing production.”

Administrators have accused striking workers of incurring millions of pounds worth of losses for the company, which is already in debt to the tune of nearly LE2 billion.

Kamal al-Fayoumy, a worker leader at the company — who was sacked several months ago on charges of instigating strikes — told Mada Masr: “On Thursday, three workers were suspended after administrators accused them of leading work stoppages. However, they have not been officially dismissed from work.” He added that there has been talk of reinstating them.

Despite such punitive measures, an estimated 14,000 workers (from a total of over 17,000) at the company are continuing with their strike, with an escalation on Saturday, when they moved from a partial strike to a comprehensive strike.

According to Fayoumy, all the factories and production lines at the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company have come to a standstill, with the exception of the administration, security personnel, and local utilities employees.

Mahalla’s striking workers have also been demanding their monthly allocations of LE90 for food, which company administrators have pledged since May.

Fayoumy reported that the administrators of the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company are claiming that the Holding Company for Textile Industries, which manages 32 state-owned textile mills, are the ones responsible for providing the 10 percent bonus. But the Holding Company is claiming it is the Finance Ministry that is responsible.

“All these state officials and administrators are washing their hands of responsibility for the payment of the bonus decreed by President Sisi,” Fayoumy said.

Thousands of workers at the Kafr al-Dawwar Textile Company (located in the Nile Delta Governorate of Beheira) launched a strike, along with factory-occupations and a sit-in on Sunday, demanding the payment of their overdue 10 percent bonuses.

Citing workers at the company, the state-owned Middle East News Agency reported that the strike would continue indefinitely until administrators pay up.

Quoting local union committee president, Shaaban al-Baghdady, MENA reported that the non-payment of this officially-decreed bonus is likely to contribute to widening income disparities and “inequality amongst the ranks of public sector workers.” 

The state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) has reportedly been negotiating with 20 local union committees to encourage them to end the strike.

On Thursday, the privately-owned Youm7 news portal reported that ETUF chiefs had reached an agreement with the unions to halt the strikes.

The ETUF executive council's leadership expired in 2011, and since then the Ministry of Manpower has been handpicking and appointing the ETUF’s board. In May this year, Sisi issued a decree which further extends the terms of these unelected officials by another year.

The ETUF website made no mention of the strikes over the non-payment of the 10 percent bonuses, instead it dedicated several of its pages to congratulating ETUF President Gebali al-Maraghi, and two other leaders of the federation, for winning seats in this year’s parliamentary elections. Maraghy and the two other ETUF leaders were running under the pro-Sisi For the Love of Egypt list.

*Photo of Kafr al-Dawwar Textile workers strike, courtesy of ElBadil news portal

Police forcefully disperse Endowments workers' protest outside presidential palace

Monday, October 12, 2015

Jano Charbel

Police forcefully dispersed a sit-in by over 1,200 workers from the Ministry of Religious Endowments in the early hours of Monday morning outside Abdeen Presidential Palace.

The workers were demanding full-time contracts to reflect the hours they work, and the reinstatement of several thousand colleagues who were sacked by ministerial officials in recent months, among other demands.

One of the protesters, Sabry Shehata, told Mada Masr that riot police were deployed around midnight. By 12.30 am they were using batons to beat those who refused to evacuate the protest site.

The demonstration reportedly began at around 9 am on Sunday outside the headquarters of the Ministry of Religious Endowments in Downtown Cairo. After getting no response from ministerial officials, protesters relocated to Abdeen Presidential Palace, just a few blocks away from the ministry.

The plan was reportedly to carry out an open-ended sit-in until state officials met their demands.

Shehata said it was clear that police wouldn’t tolerate the protest outside the palace, even though they weren’t obstructing the street. “We had congregated in a grassy area by the side of the road and weren’t blocking traffic.”

Police officers told workers they didn’t have authorization to protest, let alone to protest outside one of the presidential palaces.

Several workers suffered from bruising after being beaten by riot police. But security forces didn’t use teargas, rubber bullets, or water cannons, and no arrests were reported, as has been the case with other recent protests.

Shehata asserted that their demands were professional and not political. “We have been employed by the Endowments Ministry for years without full-time contracts, despite the fact that we work full-time, six days a week. Many of us have been working on a full-time basis for five or six years, on temporary-work contracts.”

This means Endowments Ministry workers are effectively deprived of the minimum wage (a meager LE1,200 per month), job promotions, periodic bonuses, and comprehensive insurance coverage, among other basic rights.

Shehata, who has been employed as a custodial mosque worker for the Giza authority of the Endowments Ministry for six years, said he earns LE600 per month — half the minimum wage.

“I don’t have enough money to feed or clothe my two children,” he stated, adding, “I can make sacrifices and cut my own expenditures, but are my children supposed to go hungry too?”

Workers employed by the Endowments Ministry in the governorates of Beheira, Kafr al-Sheikh, Alexandria, Giza, and Gharbiya joined the sit-in with similar demands.

Hundreds of workers who had been fired from their jobs in Alexandria participated, demanding that they be reinstated. An estimated 4,000 workers were reportedly fired by the ministry’s authorities in this Mediterranean governorate.

Local media reported that the Endowments Ministry has incurred over a billion Egyptian pounds worth of debt to insurance companies, which may have led officials in Alexandria to make such a large number of redundancies.

Mohamed Hassan, a former worker at the ministry’s department in Alexandria, explained that he and nearly 400 other workers were fired in November 2014. As a mosque custodian working full-time on a part-time contract, Hassan said his total monthly wage amounted to just LE750.

“We were laid-off nearly a year ago, and haven’t been paid since then, as we didn’t agree to sign documents to forfeit our overdue bonuses, which we hadn’t been paid for over five years. We were punitively sacked, as we refused to be stripped of our rights.”

According to Hassan, officials explained that they couldn’t make the payments due to the large amount of debt the ministry owed.

“Our insurance payments were being deducted from our wages each month. Yet when we asked about our insurance policies, the ministry claimed we had none. So where has all this money been going?”
Hassan added: “Ministerial officials have repeatedly ignored us. It is on this basis that we sought an audience with the presidential spokesperson at Abdeen, but to no avail.”

The Ministry of Religious Endowments reportedly employs some 15,000 workers nationwide.

Several workers filed a collective lawsuit against the ministry and its employment policies, claiming they violate Egypt’s basic labor provisions. The Administrative Court is scheduled to examine these claims on November 1.

Shehata added that the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation has not supported workers in their quest for fair employment rights.

*Photo courtesy of ZoomNews

Court orders release of Mubarak's sons after acquitting them of corruption charges

Associated Press

Egypt court orders release of Hosni Mubarak's sons

Gamal and Alaa Mubarak were detained in 2011 after their father stood down as president and will be freed due to time already served

Monday 12 October, 2015

A court in Egypt has ordered the release from prison of the sons of the country’s former president Hosni Mubarak, taking into account the time they have already served.

The Cairo criminal court ordered the release of Gamal, Mubarak’s one-time heir apparent, and his brother Alaa, a wealthy businessman, after they were both sentenced in May to three years in prison in a corruption case dubbed the presidential palaces affair by the Egyptian media.

They were first detained in April 2011, two months after their father stepped down during a popular uprising against his three decades in power, but were freed in January on bail before being convicted in May along with Mubarak, who is being held in a military hospital.

The trio’s conviction, which came after a retrial, was for embezzling millions of dollars in state funds over a decade, diverting money meant to pay for renovating and maintaining presidential palaces to upgrade their private residences.

Gamal and Alaa are also facing trial on insider trading charges, with the next hearing in October. They are expected to walk free later on Monday.

During sentencing in May, the three men were ordered to pay 125m Egyptian pounds (£10.4m) and return 21m Egyptian pounds they embezzled. After the hearing, judicial and security officials said those amounts had already been paid by the Mubaraks after their first trial.

Many Egyptians view the brothers as key symbols of an autocratic and corrupt administration that struck an alliance with the mega-wealthy at the expense of the poor.

The rise of the Egyptian president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who has vowed stability after four years of unrest and taken a tough line against dissent, has encouraged Mubarak supporters and upended the public perception and media depiction of the 2011 uprising.

Political activists are now often cast as troublemakers or foreign agents and hundreds of the young activists who sparked the revolt four years ago are either in prison on charges of breaking a new protest law or have left the country.

*Photo courtesy of ONA news agency