Mahalla factory workers call for May strike

Sarah Carr
3 Min Read

CAIRO: A group of workers from the Ghazl El-Mahalla spinning factory are calling for a strike in May.

Factory employee Mohamed El-Attar told Daily News Egypt that workers have handed out a leaflet to other workers calling on the factory management to respond to outstanding demands they first made over a year ago.

These demands include a minimum wage of LE 1,200, increased work allowances and the removal of Ghazl El-Mahalla s executive manager Fouad Hassan, who workers accuse of mismanagement.

El-Attar added that he and other workers will stage a sit-in in the Cairo headquarters of the Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions (EFTU) later this month, “in order to communicate our grievances directly to [EFTU head] Hussein El-Megawer. It s unacceptable that Egypt celebrates Labor Day while workers are oppressed.

Labor leader Kamal El-Fayyoumy meanwhile was circumspect about whether workers will respond to the call for a strike. He told Daily News Egypt that a delegation of workers went to Cairo on Tuesday to discuss their demands.

“We presented our demands to the manpower ministry and the decision whether or not we will strike depends on the outcome of these negotiations and their response, El-Fayyoumy explained.

El-Fayyoumy was one of three workers arrested on April 6, 2008 when the Delta town of Mahalla witnessed violent confrontations between security bodies and demonstrators protesting high food prices.

El-Fayyoumy was involved in the organization of a strike scheduled to begin on the same day which collapsed following worker disunity and intimidation by security bodies.

Ghazl El-Mahalla s most recent action was in October 2008 when 800 workers protested alleged plans to privatize the factory.

Five workers, including El-Attar, were subject to disciplinary action following the protest. The transfer orders of two of these workers, El-Attar and Wedad El-Demardesh, were subsequently quashed in court last month. Application of the court verdict is pending a 40-day period during which Ghazl El-Mahalla may lodge an appeal.

Revocation of the disciplinary action taken against the three other workers forms part of the demands listed in the leaflets handed out in the factory.

Ghazl El-Mahalla, Egypt s largest state-owned factory is a hotbed of industrial action; observers credit the success of a sit-in staged by workers in 2006 to a wave of industrial action which Egypt has witnessed since.

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Sarah Carr is a British-Egyptian journalist in Cairo. She blogs at
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