Some 24,000 workers at Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla Al Kubra, Egypt’s largest public owned company, have started an indefinite, all-out strike.
A strike by night-shift workers on 15 February quickly spread across the plant as morning-shift workers joined their colleagues’ action the next day.
Mohamed Al Attar, a leading activist and strike organiser at the factory, told me from the workers’ camp in Talaat Harb Square inside the plant, “the evening shift is now joining the striking workers and consolidating their presence.”
Al Attar explained that workers’ demands are divided into three categories: legal, administrative and economic.
The protesters’ legal demands are that the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court ruling, which set the minimum wage in Egypt at 1,200 EGP (approx £127) per month, be implemented right away.
“Workers’ demanding that the time spent in army duty while at work be added to total service time in the plant,” he said. “We demand that workers who earned higher qualifications before or during work at the plant be compensated according to their latest qualification.
“We are also targeting the company administration. We want the dismissal of the deputy general-manager, Fouad Abdel-Alim Hassan, and the chairman of the Cotton and Textile Industries Holding Company, Mohsin Al-Gilani, who are accused of being responsible for the company’s deficit over the past few years.”
The strikers also want Ibrahim Haniyeh, the company’s head of legal affairs to be sacked. Haniyeh prosecuted activists for organising strikes, but failed to act on corruption and fraud charges implicating company suppliers, Al Attar explained.
The Centre for Trade Union & Workers’ Services (CTUWS) also reported that striking workers are demanding a temporary board to be set up to run the company until the next board elections and the reinstatement of all labour leaders who have been fired or removed over the course of the last years.
On the economic level, Al Attar said that workers are demanding an end-of-service bonus of £100 a month like in all other parts of society.
They are also demanding a change in the internal code of work at the plant in a manner that allows for the re-evaluation of current policies on pay and bonuses.
Until 9 February 2011, two days before the fall of Mubarak, Egyptian workers and trade unionists were participating in the revolution in their capacity as independent citizens of the state, often sending delegations to Tahrir Square.
But since 9 February, workers across different occupations and sectors in Egypt have staged various protests and strikes all over the country calling for the dismissal of corrupt trade unionists and the implementation of fair wages and working conditions in their workplaces.
Their movement contributes to the ongoing revolution in Egypt aiming to change the old regime, and the economic and social.