|The News Line: Feature
Wednesday, 25 July 2012
MURSI ACTS TO TRY TO HALT STRIKE WAVE
EGYPT’S President Mursi has intervened to settle strikes across the textile sector and at the giant Cleopatra Ceramics in Ain Sokhna, where striking workers agreed to mediation to get unpaid wages from the Mubarak-era factory owner, said the ITUC on Monday.
In Mahalla, textile worker Ahmed Hosni was killed and four others injured when attacked by three men, apparently acting under orders from Al-Samoly company management.
Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said: ‘President Mursi’s intervention is crucial but it doesn’t get to the root of the problem – workers are weary of the top-level political intrigue while basic questions, such as non-payment of wages, are not being dealt with.
‘The government needs to move quickly to address these basic concerns.
‘Workers are feeling the squeeze, financially and politically, and any failure to deal with their demands would have dramatic results.’
Tens of thousands of workers in Egypt’s industrial sectors have been involved in strike action in recent weeks, over management attempts to take away benefits as well as over unpaid wages and demands for pay increases.
Progress in putting effective worker protections and labour laws in place has been slow since the revolution, with business operators having strong links to the old regime and the military resisting change.
A delegation of six workers from Mahalla Misr Spinning and Weaving Company on strike for the eighth day had headed to the presidential palace on Sunday to discuss their demands with President Mohamed Mursi.
The workers of the state owned factory have been demanding the removal of the company’s chairman and upper management in addition to calling for a greater share of 2011 profits and increases in end of service remunerations.
The meeting between the workers and the president was arranged by Khaled Ali, lawyer and ex-presidential candidate, who earlier criticised Mursi’s keeness to meet with businessmen instead of listening to the demands of workers.
The workers agreed to suspend their strike late on Sunday after their demands were partially met.
This included an increase to the yearly bonuses, as well as fixed allowances, changes to the administrative system, ending the service of company doctors above 60 and replacing them with more efficient physicians.
They said they would continue to negotiate the rest of their demands.
In Mahalla, an attack on striking workers at the Al-Samoly Company for Spinning and Weaving on Saturday left one dead and four injured, said Haitham Mohamadeen, a member of the independent trade union association, on Sunday.
The dead man has been named as Ahmed Hosni and the injured are being treated in the Mahalla and Mansoura hospitals. Many people at the scene blamed the company owner for initiating the attack, said Mohamadeen.
The strikers caught one of the three attackers and handed him over to the police, he added.
Hundreds of striking workers had blocked the Mahalla-Mansoura road to demand the payment of late salaries, wage increases and better incentives.
Investigations into the incident are ongoing and the accused is being interrogated.
Egypt is witnessing a new wave of strikes that started when thousands of textile workers at the state-owned Mahalla Misr Spinning and Weaving Company – Egypt’s largest textile manufacturer – walked out on 16 July.
Mahalla Misr Spinning and Weaving Company, which employs some 24,000 people, have seen a series of strikes over similar grievances within the last 18 months.
Last Monday and Tuesday, 16 and 17 July seven other textile factories – in Alexandria, Mahalla and other cities in the Nile Delta – followed suit, declaring strikes for similar demands.
A wave of strikes in Mahalla was the trigger for the revolution to depose Hosni Mubarak from the presidency.
Approximately 1,500 workers staged an open-ended sit-in on Sunday in the Red Sea gold mine of Sukari, objecting to the decision of the mine’s operating company, Centamin-Egypt, to lay off a number of mine workers.
Protesters set a 24-hour deadline for the company’s owners, saying they would close off all entrances to the mine if their demands are not met, most importantly an increase in their wages.
The workers also announced they had previously demanded of the company to raise their wages by 60 per cent as a hazard fee, as stipulated in the Egyptian Mines and Quarries Law, and in addition to pay 10 per cent of profits as worker bonuses.
The sit-in comes after almost a month of warnings by workers.
In June, they asked the union office to intervene in securing their demands.
When that failed, workers announced a 15-day countdown, after which they launched the current sit-in.
The decision to lay off a number of workers came following several months in which workers had been calling for the implementation of the Egyptian Mines and Quarries Law, in addition to equal pay between Egyptian and foreign workers in the company.
In March, a strike at the mine, based on the same demands, resulted in the closure of the company for one week.
l The Doctors Syndicate is looking forward to extra security after President Mursi last week ordered military police to secure the 100 hospitals most in need of extra protection, the organization announced at a news conference last Saturday.
‘All we want is to feel safe while doing our job as doctors,’ said Dr. Abdel Rahman Gamal, a member of the Doctors Syndicate at the conference, which took place at Dar al-Hekma.
‘We look forward to having special policemen to secure hospitals, just like the tourism police.’
A group of four doctors held the conference to express the medical syndicate’s opinion on Mursi’s decision. The president said military police should coordinate with the Doctors Syndicate to determine which 100 hospitals would be secured.
Dr. Ahmed Lotfy, a member of the syndicate, began the conference by stressing that since the presidential election, securing hospitals had been the least important priority for the military, and since that time there have been many chaotic events.
‘The syndicate sent the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces a letter to send their forces to secure the hospitals once more, and they replied, asking us to address the issue to the Interior Ministry, and by the time that the ministry replied, there were severe attacks on the Demerdash and the Qasr al-Aini hospitals,’ Lotfy said.
He added that Qasr al-Aini Hospital had closed its reception as a consequence of the attacks by the families of injured people who were not happy with the quality of the service at the hospital.
Meanwhile, Abdel Fattah Rizk, general secretary of the syndicate, offered his support to any hospital that would decide to strike as a result of any attack.
‘We began a sit-in inside the syndicate on 15 July 2012, as we felt that there was complete negligence of our basic demands, and after two days the president decided to secure the 100 hospitals most in need for security,’ said syndicate member Dr. Abdallah al-Karyouny.
The Doctors Syndicate said in a statement that it wished to protect and secure hospitals not only in the short term, but as a long-term project, which necessitates the existence of police for health institutions.
The syndicate members said the main reason for the attacks was the dissatisfaction of patients’ families with the service offered in hospitals.
‘The health budget is 4.7 per cent of the overall state budget, but, based on global standards, the health budget should be about 15 per cent of the total.
‘This is the main reason for the dissatisfaction of the patients and their families, and I believe that this necessitates that the president and the SCAF act to increase this ratio,’ Gamal said.
Although the news conference showed that the syndicate is not completely satisfied with the president’s decision, the general secretary had a different reaction.
‘Practically speaking, I feel that this is a very wise decision. To decide to protect 100 hospitals immediately satisfies me,’ Rizk said.
He said he wanted to see guards in front of hospitals, electronic gates and cameras, and supervisory personnel.
At the end of the conference, Lotfy said the syndicate had written to its branches across the country to determine which hospitals most needed the security assistance.
He said those hospitals include Demerdash in Cairo, Badrasheen in Giza, Assiut Public Hospital, Arish Public Hospital in North Sinai, and Suez Public Hospital.
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