10TH OF RAMADAN CITY/CAIRO: Workers at an acrylic spinning factory in 10th of Ramadan City are protesting the management’s failure to pay their wages for over a month and a half.
“In January we were paid late – the wages were paid after we stopped work for five days, Hassan Amin, a worker at the Selemco spinning factory told Daily News Egypt.
“We came to an agreement with management that workers will be paid before the 10th day of the following month. March 10 came and went and we weren’t paid. By the 14th we still hadn’t been paid so we stopped working again, Amin continued.
“We have now been promised that we’ll be paid on Saturday [March 28] or Sunday.
Workers told Daily News Egypt that the Selemco company has four factories. Two of these factories are located 50 meters apart in the 10th of Ramadan City’s industrial zone.
One of these factories is owned by businessman Farouq Salem and the other by his brother, Ferez.
Workers allege that conditions inside the two factories are very different, and that numerous industrial disputes have occurred in the factory they work in, the one owned by Ferez Salem.
In July 2006 state-run daily El-Gomhuria reported that 163 workers raised cases against the company alleging that it had failed to award them their due pay raises.
Workers told Daily News Egypt that during that dispute they blocked off the Cairo-Ismailia road in the 10th of Ramadan City to protest their treatment.
The dispute was resolved by manpower minister Aisha Abdel Hady who negotiated an agreement, whereby management would pay workers’ financial entitlements in return for workers withdrawing the cases against management and “resolving disputes through dialogue and negotiation .
However relations between management and workers remain strained. Workers allege that Ferez sent a letter to workers via his lawyer informing them that the factory will be closed down. They suspect that Ferez does not genuinely intend to close the factory, and that the letter is simply meant to intimidate them.
Workers, nonetheless, point out that some of the factory’s departments are not in operation, and that those that are working are merely finishing off remaining supplies of raw materials, which haven’t been renewed.
They also point to the size of the factory’s workforce which has been halved from 750 to 300 since its creation 14 years ago.
“We’re not asking for anything more than our rights: our wages. If you want to keep the factory running then give us our wages, if you don’t, then close it, give us our entitlements and we’ll look for something else, one worker said.
Frustration and anger at the fact that they haven’t been paid for over a month and a half provoked workers into staging a protest outside Ferez’s house in Heliopolis in Cairo on March 21. The protest was broken up by the police.
Workers also complain their wages are already extremely low.
“Wages for manual workers range between LE 320 and LE 660, for workers who have worked in the factory since it opened 14 years ago. Wages in Ferez’s factory are lower than any other spinning factory including the Selemco factory run by Ferez’s brother Farouq, worker Sobhy Khattab told Daily News Egypt.
“Rent for an apartment in 10th of Ramadan City is at least LE 400 per month. If I make LE 650 a month and am married with children how am I supposed to survive? Khattab continued.
Another technician, who works in Farouq Salem’s factory, echoed the same sentiments.
“I think this country is on the brink of a revolution. I take a large salary (LE 1,800) but still I’m suffering – so imagine how people who make LE 400 feel? How do they survive?
Daily News Egypt contacted Ferez for comment and was referred to factory manager Saied Hamed.
When asked why the workforce had been halved, Hamed said, “Why are you asking about the workforce in Egypt? Go to America and ask them. The whole world is in the same situation now.
Daily News Egypt then attempted to ask Hamed about the workers’ unpaid wages. The factory manager interrupted saying, “I don’t know before hanging up.