Over 350 Egyptian workers were reinstated on Tuesday, having been dismissed from their jobs on Sunday for demanding higher wages and better working conditions. The workers negotiated directly with the factory owner and eventually signed an agreement and returned to work.
Susanne Nada, a lawyer from the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) said that the workers entered negotiations with the factory owner on Monday. The factory owner refused to allow the workers to have a lawyer present during the negotiations. “The workers have the right to have a lawyer present during such negotiations,” Nada said. “To refuse them this right is illegal.” She said that this is a common occurrence in such situations and will discuss with the workers whether or not they will pursue legal action because of it.
The outcome of the negotiations, according to Nada, is that the workers all signed an agreement not to strike again, cease making wage demands and to refrain from seeking further rights. The factory owner also closed down the cafeteria for the workers inside the factory, which Nada described as a “punishment”.
Asked why the workers had agreed to sign such a document, Nada said, “They want to work; they have no other choice”. She said that situations such as these are common and referred to the case of the Faragalla factory in February, where the workers also signed an agreement with their factory owner so they could return to work. She also cited the Alexandria Portland Cement Company where she said the workers are preparing to sign a similar agreement.
The 350 Hi Tech workers had demanded higher wages, the dismissal of the factory manager who they claim mistreated them, and the reinstatement of eleven of their co-workers who had been fired for making the same demands.
The manager has not been dismissed and the wages will not change. However, the factory owner is considering giving the Egyptian workers an EGP 160 bonus if they uphold their commitments in the agreement.
Hi Tech was contacted a number of times, however the company refused to comment.