President Mohamed Morsi spoke to engineers and workers at a new steel and iron plant in Helwan on Tuesday, one day before Labour Day. In his address, he emphasised the importance of workers and the steel sector specifically in bolstering the Egyptian economy.
Morsi called on workers to continue performing their duties to support Egypt and the various sectors that rely on their work. He also mentioned plans the government had to create thousands of jobs in the iron and steel sector over the next three years.
“It is essential that we produce our own food and weapons, and the Egyptian worker is the foundation of this production,” said the president. “You are all true partners in achieving industrial and economic development.”
The president also vowed that the government would cease to sell public enterprises to private investors.
Following Morsi’s speech scores of public sector workers demonstrated at the Press Syndicate in Downtown Cairo. More demonstrations are expected tomorrow on Labour Day, and marches will end at the Shura Council and Tahrir Square calling for labour reform in Egypt.
Protesters called for the ministries of manpower and investment to form a committee to uproot labour exploitation and crack down on corrupt businessmen whom they claim continue to thrive under Morsi’s presidency.
Former presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh’s Misr Al-Qawia Party called on the government to enact important labour reforms on Tuesday.
The party said that workers had worked to claim their rights stolen by “abusive factory workers” who had previously been backed by the Mubarak government and continue to enjoy support under President Morsi. Misr Al-Qawia noted that despite the demands of the 25 January Revolution labour rights had been sidelined in the constitution and parliament.
Misr Al-Qawia Party demanded the implementation of minimum and maximum wages tied to prices and inflation, and said the constitution should be amended to tie wages to production.
In its statement the party called for the removal of laws criminalising protests, demonstrations and strikes, and the abolition of “all forms of abuses against workers and trade unions for their economic and social development”.
It also called for open dialogue with trade union authorities, human rights centres, and political parties to formulate solutions to fix unemployment crises, freedom for trade unions and workers organising themselves, and the amendment of unjust labour and social insurance laws passed under the former regime.
The party held a press conference at its headquarters declaring its solidarity with workers from various companies, including labourers from the Portland Cement Company, Fargallah, Cadbury, and Ankubab Steel Company. The party called on the Ministry of Manpower to intervene to aid the workers at these companies.