Thousands of Egyptian Workers Stage New Sit-In

Less than two weeks after a large labor protest, more than three thousands workers at Helwan and Torah cement plants (south of Cairo) staged an open sit-in due to not paying some of their financial dues.

The recent increase in huge labor protests in Egypt raises worries of the official arenas; they fear that such spontaneous moves may encourage other sections to carry out similar moves, according to observers who expect that the officials may mediate at the Italian company that possess the two companies to respond to the workers demands.

Workers’ demands

Sources say that around three thousand workers occupied the headquarters of Helwan and Tora cement plants – two of the eight biggest cement companies in Egypt- and they detained the trucks and denied them entry or exit till the administration respond to their demands of paying the overdue incentives of the last 3 months.

The sit-in lead to piling the production inside the factories and the workers confirmed that the ovens will be filled during the two days to full capacity, something that may threaten with completely stopping production; the workers threatened with turning their sit-in into a full strike in case the Italian company doesn’t address their demands.

Observers expect that this sit-in may cause a crisis in the cement prices that the government try to control in the local market during the last 4 months, as it reaches about 335 pounds per ton ($80). AEgypt is currently producing between 8 to 11 million tons of cement annually, from which it exports 4 million tons to Arab countries and China.

Workers demand paying 75 % of the value of their monthly salary as profits after their commitment to carrying out the monthly production plan in the factories, according to the contract signed with them, where Tora cement company achieved 1.8 billion Egyptian pounds net profit distribution since the Italian company “Cement ” bought it from the Egyptian government.

The Italian company demands cutting down the workers salaries and returning to the Egyptian system to make the average salary of the worker reach 1000 pounds to 1350 pounds to reduce its share in paying the social insurances paid for the workers monthly ( with a rate f 33 % of the salary according to Egyptian law); also, it wants to refer some workers to early pension during the coming period and to reap more profits.

For his part, Ali Fath Al-Bab- a labor leader and parliamentarian- told Ikhwanweb that ” the workers have the right to demand their full rights, especially under such bad conditions that the workers witness including huge health damages that workers in cement factories are suffering from.

Fath Al-Bab added that the workers’ moves to demand their rights is a very good indication but it should take place through decent methods without riots or damaging companies or institutions.

Fath Al-Bab pointed out that Ghazl Al Mahala company workers received their rights after they staged a sit-in, something that may spur other workers to follow the same method to obtain their lost rights.

Workers’ moverments, popular and spontaneous

More than 20 thousand workers in Al-Mahala Company for Spin and Textile (north of Cairo) staged a sit in 10 days ago for 3 consecutive days in response to the not paying dues that the administration promised to give.

A new report from the Al-Ard (Land) human rights centre- concerned with observing situations of the labor movement in Egypt- points to a rise of labor protests in Egypt in 2006. It has observed that the first half of 2006 witnessed 107 protests in the three sectors, and the government responded to worker demands in most of these protests .

The observers see that that popular spontaneous movement which is not related to any specific political organization or movement and showed a considerable effect and expressed- with cohesion and strength- its demands and insistence on them till managing to realize them, this movement made the government respond to it, something that the activities of the Egyptian political powers failed to do while demanding political reform, raising the fears of the official arenas in Egypt that this may spur other sections to carry out similar moves.

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