CAIRO: Employees of a petrol excavation company allege that over 1,600 of the company’s workers have been summarily dismissed without severance pay.
“I’ve worked in the company for 18 years. I started as an assistant floor man and was then promoted to a driller. And in the end they told me – without giving us a reason and without my having done anything wrong – we don’t want you, Gamil El-Deery, told Daily News Egypt outside the Ministry of Manpower and Immigration, where workers from the Egyptian Drilling Company (EDC) staged a protest yesterday.
El-Deery has been with EDC for over 18 years. Workers say that employees made redundant have been employed for EDC for between seven and 25 years.
The company, which operates over 60 oil rigs in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Libya, is jointly owned by the Danish A.P Moller-Maesrk group and the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation.
Workers allege that at the same time as they are being made redundant – because, as the company allegedly informed them, it has been hit by the economic crisis and cannot afford to keep them on – EDC has purchased costly new drilling equipment and employed new staff.
“The company has let go of these people while it employs new staff. The new staff is paid lower wages on temporary contracts, one worker told Daily News Egypt.
“They are letting us go because the people they are replacing us with are paid less, he continued.
Two workers told Daily News Egypt that they had suffered industrial accidents at work for which they had not been compensated.
Workers gathered outside the Manpower Ministry on Monday were hoping to talk to Manpower Minister Aisha Abdel-Hady about their demands for the severance pay they are entitled to, and which they say has been promised to them.
Workers say that during a meeting between company management and representatives of the Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions held last month it was agreed that workers would be paid two months full wages plus profits percentages for 2008 and 2009.
It was decided that this agreement be settled on Sunday, May 10, 2009.
At the same time as this meeting was taking place, on April 22 2009, workers were staging a protest outside the Manpower Ministry, where they were allegedly told by Yahya El-Touny, deputy head of the General Petrol Authority, that the company would uphold this agreement on condition that workers did not contact the media about the dispute or stage protests.
“We agreed to this but when we went to the company yesterday [May 10] a member of management . told us that we won’t be getting the financial entitlements, worker Omar Mohamed told Daily News Egypt.
Workers were angered yesterday when Abdel-Hady left the ministry without acknowledging them, and were subsequently informed that they should go to the Petroleum Ministry.
Workers complained that they were being given the “run around.
A Manpower Ministry official, who refused to disclose either his name or position, subsequently spoke to the protesting workers.
“People are being laid off everywhere. Five million people in America have lost their jobs. It s the economic crisis, the official said.
“You want to compare us with American workers? OK, but did they work for 12 hours a day, six days a week and in the end get thrown out on the street with nothing? Mohamed replied.
At press time, Mohamed informed Daily News Egypt that Human Resources Manager Tareq Hamouda had told them that the company had backtracked on their decision to dismiss the workers.
“Hamouda told us that workers who ve been with the company for less than five years will be paid financial compensation while those who ve been with EDC for over five years will have their contracts renewed and will return to work, Mohamed said.
The news was confirmed to Daily News Egypt by a member of EDC management who refused to disclose his name.