Thirteen-thousand workers began an open-ended sit-in at two state-owned textile factories in Mahalla on Monday, demanding promised bonuses and the new government-sanctioned minimum wage.
The workers at state-owned Misr Spinning and Weaving and Helwan Spinning and Weaving had previously warned Egyptian authorities that they would strike if their bonuses were not paid and if the new government-sanctioned minimum income did not go into effect. They succeeded on Monday in stalling production in the two factories by organising a sit-in in the company’s headquarters.
Faisal Lacushah, an activist and textile worker in Mahalla, estimated the number of workers at 20,000. He confirmed that meetings are ongoing between the Ministry of Finance, managers of the companies, and the Worker’s Syndicate.
Abdel Fattah Ibrahim, head of the Union of Textile Workers, blamed ministers within the government, accusing them of neglecting the need for stability in Egypt. The syndicate wrote a letter two months ago to the concerned authorities, warning them of the possibility of a strike.
The workers also have also demandedthe resignation of Chairman of the Holding Company for Cotton, Spinning and Weaving Fouad Abdel-Alim Hassan. The workers allege that the company has enough money to pay the new wages and bonuses, pointing out that it has never claimed a lack of finances.
Hassan, who was removed from his position as chairman of the board of directors of the Mahalla factories following a 2007 strike, fired back at the workers, accusing them of wanting to derail the company.
Hassan in turn has blamed the Ministry of Public Enterprise Osama Saleh, who he claimed is in charge of paying the workers.
The workers’ bonuses for two months total EGP 155m. The new government sanctioned the minimum wage at EGP 1,200 a month, while presently there are thousands of workers that earn only EGP 500 a month.
Mahalla workers staged a crippling strike in 2006 to demand bonuses and better wages, which inspired numerous other strikes by factory workers across the country.