Labor Unrest Continues in Egypt
A strike among Cleopatra Ceramics workers that had lasted 28 days has been suspended pending government mediation. The ceramics workers said at a labor conference on Thursday that they had in fact been locked out by Mohamed Abul Enein, the CEO of the company. Some of Enein’s employees at the conference accused him of cutting transportation assistance, failing to distribute profit shares, and planning to shut down the factories. He called the accusations baseless: “Shame on them…there is no industrial country around the world that sees what my factories see [in terms of rights and conditions].” Enein is also facing trial for his alleged role in the “Battle of the Camel” last year, which he is charged with having orchestrated. Fatma Ramadan of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions, formed last year during the uprising, argued that “Abul Enein was an influential figure within the old regime. We must make sure that [he] does not become a member of the new ruling regime. We must not allow him, or his likes, to continue stealing the rights of workers.” Former presidential candidate and labor lawyer Khaled Ali agreed, appealing to President Mohamed Morsi: ”just like you met with businessmen to assess their needs and to protect their interests, so too must you meet with workers to protect their rights.”
Meanwhile, around 23,000 textile workers of several factories in Mahalla al-Kubra are on strike, citing the corruption and incompetence of management, and reportedly demanding profit-sharing payments, better working conditions and protection of workers’ rights in the new constitution. The textile workers, who are affiliated with the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation, have differing opinions on the political nature of the strike. Some distanced themselves from political activism, but others disagreed. “Morsi spoke of realizing genuine social justice in the country,” one picketer said. “But if he fails to assist Egypt’s largest textile company and its 23,000 workers, then he is not making good on his promises.”
Labor actions in other parts of the country continue as well, with doctors in Cairo demanding better security protection, and notary employees calling for increased bonuses and improved working conditions. Joel Beinin, writing for the Carnegie Foundation, examines workers issues in a report on the labor movement in Egypt.