CAIRO: Thousands of workers were made redundant and homeless in the first part of 2008 alone, reports a human rights group.
“Sons of the Land Association for Human Rights, an NGO founded in 2004, released its bi-annual report tracing a high number of workers’ action in the first half of 2008.
Out of the 20,550 who were laid off, 3,536 were fired from the labor sector, 5,214 from the private sector and a massive 11,700 from the state sector.
The left leaning NGO has also reported that there have been 239 cases of collective protest action by Egyptian workers between January and July 2008.
According to the organization, protest movements took the form of strikes, demonstrations and 118 sit-ins. Of the latter, 43 were raised by workers in the labor sector, 33 in the state sector, and 42 in the private sector.
Meanwhile, according to the organization’s statistics, Egyptian workers have taken part in 68 strikes so far in 2008. Of these, 17 were confined to the labor sector, 22 to the state sector and 29 to the private sector.
Demonstrations reached a total of 48, with 15 in the labor sector, 18 in the state sector and 15 in the private sector.
The organization also traced the numbers of workers killed and injured because of poor working conditions. It states that there are 36 official cases where workers have met their deaths due to poor working conditions; primarily including lack of health and safety conditions. Over 960 others have been injured.
It notes that a large number of deaths reported were among workers in the drainage system, after the government body failed to “provide masks and cheap gloves to protect workers against deadly smoke.
However, the report highlights that the “real tragedies are the 10 workers that have committed suicide in 2008 due to “complete despair from improving their working conditions and being able to support their families.
The report gave examples of companies whose employees have taken part in strikes and protests in 2008, including the Petroleum Companies Petrojet and Apesko. On May 18, 2008, 3,000 employees from four different provinces, El-Sharqeya, Al-Arish, Ismailia and Port Said staged a demonstration in front of the headquarters of the Ministry of Petroleum.
According to employee statements, monthly wages were on average LE 350 per month, with employees being exposed to radiation daily. The human rights organization reported that although a meeting was held between a number of officials, including the head of the petroleum board, this resulted in harsh measures taken against all those who took part in the demonstration.
“As we see the private sector expanding at the expense of the public sector, we also see workers suffering more from redundancy, activist Adel William who belongs to the organization, told Daily News Egypt. “What is more alarming, is that the rules governing the private sector pertaining to health, safety and insurance are very lax, and rarely enforced. This is how we can explain a growing rise in worker agitation.
He added that, although the protest figures for 2008 reached an all time high compared to previous years, the real figures could be even greater. “What any reader of this report must remember, is that although we did extensive research into all the figures quoted, we only have access to certain testimonies and official documents, said William. “We expect, especially in the cases of death and injury, that many go unreported, with employers unwilling to make statements and file reports.