CAIRO: Around 850 workers from the Tanta Flax and Oil Company went on hunger strike Tuesday, in an escalation to their three-month protest against the factory’s administration, while 350 protested infornt of the prime minister’s office in downtown Cairo.
A large number of anti-riot police trucks and high-ranking state security officers were present around the Cairo protest. The workers reported clashes between them and security officials in Cairo.
The workers said that Hussein Megawer, president of the Egyptian Trade Union, paid them a visit to negotiate their demands. They were also told that Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif offered to pay them a month’s salary if they ended the strike. However, the workers rejected the offer and insist that their demands be met.
The protestors are demanding that the company be reverted back to the public sector, a worker told Daily News Egypt.
“While our colleagues are on a hunger strike now, we are trying to do our part here. We want to see results, Safwat Michel, one of the workers’ leaders, told Daily News Egypt.
As workers’ frustration mounts, protests escalate. Earlier this month, the factory workers blocked the Tanta-Zefta highway in the Nile Delta. They also protested in front of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Giza.
The workers are demanding the return of union workers fired by the company, and an increase in meal allowances from LE 31 to LE 90.
They also claim they did not receive a promised raise – as per their contract – after Saudi investor Abdullah Al-Kaeky took over the company in July 2008.
The factory’s administration and the Saudi investor continue to ignore the workers’ demands, refusing negotiations.
Workers claim that the company was sold in 2005 to Al-Kaeky for much less than its market value. He bought the company, which included 10 other factories, four flats, a number of cars and vehicles for LE 83 million.
“One of the recently built factories is worth LE 60 million alone, Michel told Daily News Egypt in a previous interview.
“We have pleaded with officials left and right, but in vain, Hisham Al-Okal, one of the fired workers and a strike organizer, told Daily News Egypt.
“We will not stop until officials hear us and meet our demands, he added.
Workers argue that the owners do not have the factory’s best interest at heart.
“We see it happen in many factories around Egypt. They come and buy the land at cheap prices, try to sabotage the factory in order to sell it for huge profit and in the process, both the country and the workers lose, Al-Okal added.