CAIRO: More than 100 workers at textile and garments company Amonseto International continued a sit-in for the second consecutive day in front of the Shoura Council, demanding either to return to their jobs or the closure of the company.
About 1,200 current workers – down from 5,000, who worked at one of Amonseto’s 12 factories – say that they have not received their salaries since the owner, Adel Agha fled the country in 2007 and the Ministry of Manpower stopped paying them their monthly aid shortly after.
Agha was charged with evading customs and sentenced to six years in prison. However, three years following the sentence, he was declared innocent.
According to one of the workers, Agha was indebted to Banque Du Caire for LE 1 billion, and so to “pressure the government he cut the workforce and stopped paying bills.
“The company used to run 12 factories employing more than 5,000 workers. He stopped paying allowances and incentives and then fled the country from Borg Al-Arab airport, Ibrahim Othman, treasurer of the Workers’ Syndicate’s committee at the company told Daily News Egypt.
Workers established their own administration to run the company in place of the fugitive owner, but soon were unable to handle the mounting demands to pay taxes and cover their electricity, water and gas bills.
In June 2008, the Ministry of Electricity cut the power from the factories and the Prosecutor General appointed three commissioners to run the company.
“They came once a week and were paid LE 10,000 a month. They cancelled transportation, didn’t attempt to solve the debt problem and didn’t even negotiate with the bank, said Mohamed Hussein, a worker.
According to Othman, the workers appealed to all officials asking for a two-year loan which they failed to secure, leading to the closure of factories over 13 months ago.
When the workers began to organize monthly protests in front of the Shoura Council, the Ministry of Manpower agreed to pay them monthly “handouts for 10 months in May 2009, but then stopped delivering the payments now, two months before the agreed cut-off date.
“A lot of workers have left, only 1,200 remain. 800 of them work in the laundry services department which is still functioning while the other 400 are at home with no income except [the little they receive] from the emergency fund, Othman said.
Workers say they can’t work elsewhere because they don’t have official documents.
Manpower Minister Aisha Abdel Hady met with the workers for the second time and told them that the ministry can’t do any more to help.
“The ministry says it is unable to do more and the bank is reluctant to do anything; we demand that the company either be liquidated and the workers given their full financial compensations or we get re-employed, Hussein said.
The workers are also demanding the instatement of a financial administration under the supervision of the government to negotiate with the bank.