Fayoum trade unionist sacked

Thirty-four-year-old Ashraf Abdel Wanis is a father of four, who’s been working at the administrative affairs department of the state-owned Fayoum Sugar factory for nine years. His monthly basic salary is LE221.66, which goes up to LE638 with the bonuses and allowances.

Ashraf Abdel Wanis (Photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy)

[Above: Fayoum Sugar Company trade unionist Ashraf Abdel Wanis. Photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy]

The company has 500 workers on contracts, and another 200 on a seasonal basis. The factory works at its full capacity, during the sugar beads season, which lasts between February and June.

The factory witnessed a two-day strike in June 2006, during which Ashraf and his colleagues played a leading role, over a number of demands including increasing the LE1 daily food allowance to LE5, and forming a branch for the General Union for Food Industries at the factory, among other demands (There were 14 demands in total). The management agreed to increase the daily food allowance only to LE2, and allowed the workers to form a Factory Union Committee, whose elections took place last fall, promising to look into the rest of the demands that had to do with workers’ shares of profits. Ashraf managed to win a union seat.

The management, using carrots and sticks, managed to impose an engineer by the name Khaled Abu Bakr as the Factory Union Committee’s president. He, together with the management, have been launching a witch-hunt against Ashraf and others involved in last year’s strike, especially as the latter were lobbying for increasing the shares of workers in the annual profits made by the company, as well as increasing the transportation and housing allowances.

On 5 March, Ashraf was transfered to another department within the factory. The manamgent suspended him from his job on 10 March, and sacked him finally on 22 March, alleging he had not shown up for work without medical notice. In an interview to Al-Massa’ia on 21 March, however, Khaled Abu Bakr, the pro-management head of the Factory Union Committee stated that “Ashraf Abdel Wanis was transfered to a disciplinary board for investigating his role in agitating the workers about profit shares.”

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Ashraf is filing a lawsuit, and planning to stage a sit-in, together with other trade unionists at the General Union for Food Industries, in Nasr City, next week if the Labor Ministry does not get involved to revoke the management’s dismissal decree.