CAIRO: Striking workers from the Nile Cotton Ginning Company protested outside the People’s Assembly yesterday, demanding that PA members intervene in a long-running pay dispute.
“Wages haven’t been paid and we haven’t been given a full annual raise, accountant Ashraf Kishk told Daily News Egypt.
“After negotiations involving the Ministry of Manpower we were given a 10 percent increase in October 2008 rather than the 30 percent we are entitled to. The company continued to pay wages late, or not at all, until last month, when they reduced incentive payments. As a result, each worker loses between LE 110 and LE 600, Kishk continued.
Workers from the company have been on strike since April 29, 2009, when the decision to reduce incentive payments was issued.
Some 200 workers gathered outside the PA on Sunday holding up signs reading “save us from the injustice of the investor and blamed deputy company chairman Sayyed Abdel-Alim El-Seify for the company’s “deteriorating performance.
One worker said that El-Seify is “killing 1,000 families.
“El-Seify is strangling workers so that they’ll scream, which allows him to involve the government in negotiations, Kishk said.
“The government then gives the go-ahead to anything El-Seify wants to do with the company from selling its assets to closing factories.
Daily News Egypt attempted to contact El-Seify for comment but the deputy chairman did not answer repeated phone calls.
At time of press, Kishk told Daily News Egypt that the police had started trying to break up the protest.
“They’ve started threatening us in an attempt to make us break up the protest saying that we’re not allowed to spend the night here, Kishk said.
Kishk criticized what he described as the “inability of the Ministry of Manpower to exercise real influence over employers.
In addition to not paying them for the last two months, workers say that company management has transferred workers from one factory to another without paying the costs of transportation.
Accountant Mohamed Abdel Meneim said that he has been transferred from Sohag to Zefta and is not being paid for his transport or accommodation costs – a standard procedure in transfers.
Workers say that as a result they are forced to spend between LE 10 – LE 15 per day out of their own pockets on transport.
The current industrial action is the second strike in less than a year, and part of a series of protests by workers.
In July 2008 workers went on strike over a pay dispute concerning the annual raise, while in November 2007 they staged a sit-in in the company’s Minya factory after wages weren’t paid.
Privatized in 1997, Nile Cotton has factories in the governorate of Minya and in the Delta.
In addition to cotton ginning, the company produces soap, oils, fats and agricultural fodder.
Nile Cotton workers have repeatedly alleged that the company’s poor economic performance and huge debts reflect the intention of its management to close down its ginning production and sell the extremely valuable land on which the factories stand.
In August 2008 Nile Cotton was estimated to have a total of LE 344 million worth of debts.