Labor unrest persists among private sector workers

A wave of industrial unrest has swept through the private sector this week.

A delegation of some 150 employees from the privatized Egyptian Company for Telephone Production, located in Helwan, gathered at the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation on Wednesday to demand redundancy packages, owed to them since June. This followed an unsuccessful visit by a delegation of ten workers to the Ministry of Manpower on Tuesday.

Dissatisfaction stems from the fact that since the company ceased production in October 2008 employees have seen only seven months’ basic salary from the company and an additional seven months’ payments (LE200 per month) from the Ministry of Manpower’s emergency funds, according to a representative of the work force, Hisham Abdel Razeq.

Abdel Razeq showed Al-Masry Al-Youm an agreement signed by Minister of Manpower Aisha Abdel Hadi dated 25 May 2010 in which she pledged that each of the 224 workers (employed by the company before privatization in 2000) would receive their unpaid wages in full plus a LE50,000 redundancy package on 23 June 2010.  In an interview last week in one of the state-owned dailies the Minister restated that the 224 would receive all their wages whilst an agreement had been reached with the company by which the 539 workers employed since privatization would be redeployed in jobs affiliated to the Ministry of Communications.

According to the protesting workers, by June only 270 had been transferred to new positions and the money had not been received.  According to Abdel Razeq, “The policies of the ministry and [the Jordanian investor who purchased the company] Ayman al-Hegawi are contributing to the destruction of the company and the loss of our livelihoods.”

This is merely the latest in a string of incidents amongst private sector workers whose companies have been affected by financial crises.

On Monday a delegation of around 50 workers from the private sector Salemco Textile Company, located in 10 Ramadan City, visited the Ministry of Manpower in the hope of either having their company resume production or negotiating redundancy packages; on Tuesday seven representatives from the Hebiraw Company for Pharmaceutical Raw Materials tried the same approach along with the demonstrators from the Egyptian Company for Telephone Production.

Disillusioned workers from Salemco said that production at their company had ceased as of January 2010.

Local union member Abdel Sadeq Abdel Maguid said “We conducted sit-in and sleep-in protests twice outside Parliament and the Shura Council, we filed appeals at the General Union for Textile Workers, the Egyptian Trade Union Federation, the Ministry of Manpower; and in an act of desperation on Wednesday we blocked-off the Cairo-Ismailiya Desert Highway for nearly one hour. Police officers forcibly dispersed us on Wednesday and told us to come here to the Ministry of Manpower.”

 Each of the company’s 500 workers received six months of payments, amounting to LE200 per month, from the ministry’s emergency fund, but have been left without any source of income since July. A representative for the work force said that the ministry is attempting to resolve their problem– either by resuming production or arranging redundancy packages.

On the following day it was the turn of the Hebiraw Company for Pharmaceutical Raw Materials (located in the Free Trade Zone of Qena) to congregate outside the ministry before filing their appeal to the Labor Disputes Bureau.   Saad Abdel Rabu, a representative of the workers said, “Production at our company was frozen in March 2009. Since then we have received no wages, and no assistance payments from the ministry.” He claimed that company owner Refaat al-Sayyed received a LE10 million loan from the ministry’s emergency fund to re-open the company and to compensate its 400 workers, “but we have not been compensated nor has the company been re-opened. We demand that the company owner be held accountable.”

Other incidents of unresolved labor issues include a sit-in conducted by some 200 workers in the Mansoura Espagna Textile Company in protest against their administration’s decision to place them on unpaid vacation, while around 1700 workers at the Amonsito Textile Company in 10 Ramadan are still awaiting the liquidation of their company and their compensation – ever since the company owner Adel Agha fled the country in June 2008. Meanwhile, workers from the privatized Tanta Flax and Oils Company have successfully filed law suits against Saudi investor Abdel Ellah al-Kaaki and his administration for the liquidation of the company and their compensation. All production at this company was frozen in May 2009 following a string of strikes and lock-outs.

On 25 July, representatives of workers from 25 different companies, most of which were privatized or private sector companies staged a silent protest and filed complaints at the International Labor Organization regarding their employers’ practices. Demonstrators held placards reading “the road to investment must not come at the expense of workers”.


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