Court hopes Tanta verdict deters workers’ rights violations

Al-Masry Al-Youm has obtained a copy of the Tanta Misdemeanor Court’s rationale for its 16 June verdict sentencing Saudi investor Abdel Ilah Salah el-Kaki, owner and president of the Tanta Flax and Oils Company, along with two other company officials, to two years in prison with hard labor. Workers at the company filed the case against company management due to complaints of arbitrary dismissal and nonpayment of wages.

The court justified its ruling by affirming the credibility of testimony received from the firm’s workers and management, which corroborated evidence obtained from company documents.

Defending its decision to slap the accused with “the most severe punishment allowable by law,” the court noted its desire to “extend the protection of law to the Egyptian worker and deal severely with anyone found to be violating their rights.” The court went on to say that it hoped that the verdict would serve as a “general deterrent” to those who might otherwise mistreat workers, invoking Article 375 of the Egyptian Penal Code, which stipulates harsher punishments for offenders found violating the rights of two or more workers.

The Attorney General accused defendants of failing to pay wages of 843 company workers since January 2010, and of dismissing three employees without receiving appropriate government permission, as is specified by law.  

According to the complaint filed against defendants in the Gharbiya Governorate, the defendants had conspired to shut down the factory. Beginning in 2009, the complaint states that the defendants barred managers of the company’s factory from entering the workplace. Furthermore, the defendants ceased ordering the raw materials necessary for operation of the plant, eventually removing supplies of flax from the factory. At this point, factory production ceased, even though workers remained on site.

When Tanta Flax stopped paying workers their wages in January 2010, the latter filed a complaint with the city of Tanta. Despite repeated efforts by representatives from workers syndicates to resolve the issue, the factory remained closed and the workers jobless. At this point, workers began staging demonstrations in the streets of Cairo in protest, which they maintained for several months until they received assurances that they would be granted compensation for their unpaid wages and the factory’s closure.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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