Around 22,000 workers are currently striking at Egypt’s largest state-owned textile company in Mahalla.
Strikers at the Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla are demanding the payment of promised bonuses from 2013; the implementation of the EGP 1200 (USD 172) minimum wage; and the dismissal of Fouad Abdel-Alim, head of the Holding Company which oversees all public sector textile firms.
“We urge the government to respond to workers’ legitimate demands in a timely manner and make sure their voice is heard at the decision-making level, especially when dealing with issues that directly affect workers and their families,” said Kemal Özkan, Assistant General Secretary at IndustriALL Global Union.
Mohamed Assad, Media Secretary of the Free Trade Union at the Mahalla Spinning and Weaving Company, and a young leader of the strike said:
“We have postponed this strike a few times based on unfulfilled promises from the government on bonus payments, and to make sure our strike wasn’t used for political purposes. All of the workers are now insisting that the minimum wage be implemented and Fouad Abdel-Alem is dismissed.”
On Monday, the Economic Ministerial Committee approved the payment of EGP 157 million (USD 22.5 million) of delayed bonuses but workers are continuing to strike until the rest of their demands are met, in particular the dismissal of Fouad Abdel-Alim.
Prior to becoming head of the Holding Company, Abdel-Alim was chairperson of Mahalla Spinning and Weaving Company until he was removed after a workers’ strike in 2007 demanding his dismissal.
While workers say they can wait for the minimum wage until there are further discussions on how to implement it within the company, they will not tolerate Fouad Abdel-Alim in his position.
Around 5,000 women, who make up 25% of the company’s workforce, are participating in the strike, which is also being supported by approximately 12,000 workers from five public sector companies striking for the same demands.
The Mahalla workers were a major force in the tumbling of the Hosni Mubarak regime on 25 January 2011. Ever since 2006, they have led the biggest wave of strikes in Egypt in 60 years, protesting against deteriorating working and living conditions and leading the challenge against the Mubarak regime.