6 March, 2014The strike by 6,000 workers at Ceramica Cleopatra has entered its second week as workers demand the reinstatement of 23 dismissed workers as well as improved terms and conditions of employment.
Workers of Ceramica Cleopatra have been at the forefront of struggle in Egypt, leading a wave of protests as early as 2006 when they demanded the right to organize and increased wages. 2011 and 2012 saw workers again protesting for similar demands.
There appeared to be a resolution of the problems and industrial action was halted in 2012 following the signing of a collective agreement with the owner of the factory, Mohamed Abu Elenin. However despite the fact that the agreement was signed in the presence of the then Minister of Labour, the company failed to implement the agreement and continued to seriously violate workers' rights. By the end of 2012, workers of the company had met with the Egyptian President as well as the Ministers of Labor and Investment and the employer again promised to accede to the workers' demands.
However over recent weeks the dispute has again erupted following the factory owner pressuring the trade union committee of the company to agree on decreasing workers' wages. When the union unanimously stood up to the pressure and rejected these demands the owner’s response was further threats, intimidation and threatened legal cases. Under this tremendous pressure the trade union committee were forced into signing letters of resignation.
Together with their reinstatement workers demand the payment of outstanding profit shares for 2012 and 2013, the payment of hazardous work allowances, the provision of occupational health and safety equipment, - as well as improved health care and the establishment of a workers' fund to be paid at the ending of service.
IndustriALL Global Union Assistant General Secretary, Kemal Özkan, in a message of support to the workers stated,
We fully support their struggle for trade union rights and as well as demanding that the employer fully implement the collective agreement and reinstate the trade union committee members we are urging the government to intervene and protect workers from these outrageous threats and fully meet their obligations under ILO Conventions".
The company is located in Suez City at the southern entrance to the Suez Canal. Suez witnessed early and intense clashes between protesters and security forces during the uprising that ousted Mubarak in 2011.