Once again the workers of Mahallah have gone on strike against both management and unions over the non-payment of wages.
In the Mahalla al-Kubra district in the Nile Delta, where Egypt’s textile industry is concentrated and which has always been amongst the vanguard of Egyptian movements there is an all-out strike of 17,000 workers. Workers are demanding wage rise to cope with 33% inflation. Workers have promised "We will fight to the bitter end". A victory here could trigger protests across the country.
The movement began on Saturday night (August 120 with a partial strike for a few hours, but in the face of the company's inflexibility and the provocations of security guards (who asked workers to denounce the "agitators") the strike was extended to thirty establishments in this industrial hub. According to the Egyptian independent press the strike is 100% solid.
The workers are demanding those annual bonuses, and profit-sharing payments which often end up disappearing from pay slips. In this case, the strike started over a bonus payment that was due in July. After waiting for a month, the strike started, with a much wider list of demands, which add up to a 10% increase in wages.
The company, the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company, has repeatedly attempted to negotiate with the workers but only through the state-owned union, which does not play any role in the strike and often takes the side of the state and the bosses.
Although the company was ready to make concessions, workers have refused to accept any compromise and say they want to continue strike until all their legitimate demands are met. Many believe that the massive strikes of Mahalla in 2006 and 2007 and the long wave of social protests that arose there were the spark for the 2011 Tahrir Square protest.
Mahalla has often been a beacon for a wider movement in the country especially since the economic situation for the working class is dire (it’s not so great for the middle class). The regime could use repression against the workers but this would be more dangerous than repression against Tahrir Square or even the Muslim Brotherhood. But to concede their demands (as the state has done in the past could equally open the floodgates to more demands from the rest of the working class
The words of one striking worker from Mahalla, recorded by the independent platform Yanair Gate: "Once again the revolution will start from us, from Mahalla, as it did the first time. We will not give up our rights whatsoever. We will continue the protest”.