Police arrested 16 Faragalla factory workers in Alexandria on Saturday on charges of inciting strikes, disrupting work, and assaulting employees in the workplace using cold weapons.
Prosecutors had ordered the arrest of 27 workers earlier in the day after factory owner Farag Amer accused them of causing the three-day long strike that shut down the factory. The other 11 remain at large.
Amer and the workers had signed an agreement mediated by the labour ministry on Friday leading to the temporary suspension of the strike and reopening of the factory.
Independent Faragalla Workers Syndicate leader Magdi Abdel Salam, quoted in a statement by the Egyptian Democratic Workers Conference, said workers were surprised when they turned up to the factory on Saturday to find that 27 of them had been called to the company’s legal affairs department and charged with inciting strikes, disrupting work, and violence.
They later found out that those who had been called in were also reported to the police by Amer.
Abdel Salam added that Amer accuses them of attacking other workers and brandishing swords during the strikes, but that those accused were on Amer’s side and were incited to act by him.
Abdel Salam also said that the company persuaded some of the other employees into filing complaints against the striking workers.
Workers in the Faragalla factory in Alexandria, part of the food giant Faragalla Group, went on strike last week and closed the factory for three days.
They demanded that temporary workers be hired full time, an increase in wages, the introduction of a five-day working week with the weekend off, payment of wages at a fixed time at the beginning of every month, being paid a share of the company’s profits as per Egyptian labour laws, and social insurance on their actual wages.
The closing down of the factory prompted Amer to initially announce on Wednesday he would close all his ventures in Egypt and leave the country.
In a letter directed to President Mohamed Morsi, Amer urged him to restore security so that “business could pick up and drive the wheel of production forward” and that he was closing his factories and companies due to “factional protests and strikes, attempts at blackmail, moral decay and law-breaking” on the part of his workers.
Amer was later convinced to stay and reach a compromise with the workers by Minister of Labour and Immigration Khaled Al-Azhari.
The workday would start at 8 am and end at 4 pm with a one-hour break in the middle for those working on Saturdays, ending at 5 pm for those taking Saturday off.
In return, the workers would allow the reopening of the factory and suspend the strike in order to form a representative committee to negotiate with Amer on the rest of their demands.
Follow Ahmed Aboul Enein on Twitter @aaboulenein