Mahalla strikers score victory

Government negotiators and labor representatives resolved early on Saturday a week-old labor dispute that had paralyzed Egypt’s largest textile factory by largely agreeing to the workers’ demands, the strike committee said in a statement.

Submitted by Ed on September 29, 2007

Workers’ representatives of the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla el-Kubra, north of Cairo, met with the official government union and they agreed to grant the workers’ an additional 90 days pay, and negotiate over further increases.

“After the rise in Arab, local and international solidarity with the workers of Ghazl el-Mahalla, the workers were victorious in negotiations,” said a statement from the strike coordination committee that appeared on labor-related blogs.

The workers, who complain of poverty-level wages, went on strike after the government only paid them 20 days in bonuses instead of a 150 days they said they deserved under profit sharing agreements. Under the new agreement, the workers will receive an additional 70 days of wages, while the company general assembly will meet to determine additional payments so that the total bonus is at least 130 days.

Thousands of workers staged a six-day sit in at the factory which employs 27,000 people and exports textiles all over the world. Factory managers said the strike cost them millions of dollars a day. The strikers demanded better working conditions and benefits as well as higher wages, with some receiving as little as US$44 (€31) a month.

The strike, the second at that factory in less than a year, came amid a wave of labor unrest that has swept the country as workers demand higher wages and bonuses and express fear over plans to sell off state-owned enterprises.

In nearly every case, the government officials have met with workers and agreed to their demands _ which some observers have said has only encouraged further strikes.

The strike came as the government statistic bureau warned recently that the price of basic food stuffs has risen by 48 percent in the past year.

Details of the negotiations
1) Ninety days of the annual profit shares will be paid immediately to the workers. The rest will be determined by the General Assembly of the company, on condition that it will be no less than 130 days, and no ceiling was agreed up on. The workers had already received 20 days, so another 70 will be decreed (so from the initial 40 days offered by the management, the strikers raised it to 90 days instead.)

2) The strike days will be considered paid holidays, whose costs will be incurred by the Holding Company

3) Instead of giving the management the right to determine the incentives, the latter will be a function of the basic monthly salary, with an annual increase of 7% of the basic salary.

4) A cooperative society is to be established, funded by the Holding Company, to provide for the transportation of workers. Labor leader Mostafa Fouda has been assigned to direct it

5) No striker will be victimized for taking part in the industrial action. A committee from the strike leaders has been formed to continue negotiating with the Holding Company over increasing the allowances for food and industrial safety.

6) The strike leaders were promised that Mahmoud el-Gebaly, the corrupt company board chairman will be impeached, together with his assistants

7) Work is to resume on Sunday

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