The strike at Petrotrade company continued into its second week at the commencement of work hours on Monday, after failed attempts by the management to resolve the dispute.
As the strike in different governorates and branches escalated, 165 workers have been dismissed from work, Karim Adel, one of the strike organisers told Daily News Egypt Monday.
Another 30 workers, Adel added, were reported to the police by the company over charges of “inciting employees to strike” and “violating the Protest Law”.
“Some of the workers who were investigated by the police were women, who had to spend time in detention inside the police stations. We are being accused of being members of the 6 April movement and the Muslim Brotherhood, to show the public that we are agitators ahead of the 25 January Revolution anniversary.”
The Petrotrade Company management has adopted these coercive measures to pressure workers to end their strike, promising an escalation in reports to police and withholding the promise of allowing the dismissed workers to return until production resumes, Adel explained.
According to Adel, the strike has spread to several of the company’s branches. He told Daily News Egypt that the whole dispute started when additional bonuses were issued to all mangers and their favoured employees in their “close circle”, while denying it to the wider workforce. The workers have cited a marked disparity in salary between workers and the management as one of the principal grievances.
“While the workers get around EGP 2,500 per month, the mangers earned salaries last month between EGP 12,000 and EGP 100,000, much of which can be attributed to arbitrary bonuses, which is unacceptable,” Adel added
Workers have demanded the removal of the current management, in addition to the reinstatement of dismissed workers and the ceasing of all “oppressive procedures” against striking workers.
“We also demand a stable salary regulation to be applied to all individuals working in the company,” Adel added.
“The workers earn pennies while the mangers make a fortune,” one of the workers, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Daily News Egypt.
“How can we live on those few hundred pounds amid a rapid and crazy rise in prices? Why is the government allowing company owners eat the workers alive? This is not the problem with Petrotrade alone. The same issue is repeated in different factories, but the management successfully quells the worker’s fury by issuing temporary bonuses,” the worker added.
“We hold the current Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy responsible of the current crisis,” Adel added.
Established in 2001 as a joint-stock company, Petrotrade specialises in collecting receivable payments from domestic gas users for the Egypt’s Petroleum Authority.
The call centre of the company was contacted, but a representative refused to comment.
Several NGOs and labour groups released a joint-statement Monday declaring solidarity with the striking workers. They supported the workers’ “right to strike and to demand rights”, and vowed to support the workers legally and in the media.
The signatories, which included a number of leftist parties and organisations, condemned the government’s and the state-controlled Petroleum Authority’s failure to address and respond to the workers’ demands.
As established by the precedent set by Egypt’s High Administrative Court last April , workers are forbidden from striking, and if found to have been involved, can be recommended for early retirement. For unlicensed workers, participation in a strike is considered political protest, which is outlawed by the controversial Protest Law.
The Egyptian state and mainstream media have repeatedly called on workers to refrain from striking and to increase “the wheels of production”. This is to achieve stability and security, using nationalistic rhetoric to argue that striking “would allow terrorists to capitalise” on the country’s resulting economic turmoil.