Mansoura-Espana Garments Company workers on strike

Tuesday 24th June 2008 – Workers at the Mansoura-Espana Garments Company in Talkha are on strike.

Submitted by Khawaga on June 24, 2008

Tuesday 24th June 2008 – Workers at the Mansoura-Espana Garments Company in Talkha are on strike. Via Twitter, Arabawy reports that central security forces and trucks have surrounded the factory, and that water cannons have been used on the strikers. State security are threatening strikers with arrest and ministry of labor officials are pressuring workers to suspend the strike.

The strike started after Adel Hassaballah, deputy head of the Factory Union Committee, was barred from entering the factory compound. Hassaballa had been fired earlier by United Bank (the majority shareholder) for allowing journalists into the factory to speak to the workers. The current strike comes after a week of unrest at the company.

On Sunday June 15th the 250 workers at the Mansoura-Espana Garments Company in Talkha staged a sit in at the gates of their factory following the sacking of trade unionist Mohssen el-Shae’r and the company’s management refusal to heed the agreement brokered after a two month-long factory occupation in 2007.

El-Sha’er was sacked on charges of “talking to the press”. El-Sha’er had talked to various journalists about the hardships at the factory and the general onslaught on the workers from the factory management and the majority owner United Bank.

On June 19th Essam Zahran, director of legal affairs at the company filed a complaint against four workers at the factory, accusing them of agitating for industrial action. Later the United Bank issued a sacking decree against the four workers.

In addition, the security guard at the company gate will be punished by management for “allowing journalists into the factory” and for refusing to testify against a colleague accused by the management of letting the workers out of the warehouses exit, after the management tried locking them up inside the factory. They will deduct 10 days from his salary.

The current actions are not something new to the Masoura-Espana factory. In April of 2007 the workers at the factory were involved in a two-month long factory occupation to secure wages and bonuses.

Factory officials had failed to pay May Day allowances and annual index-linked pay increases since 1999 and in spring 2007 they did not even pay the basic salary, which prompted the action. The factory was under threat of liquidation, but the action of the workers led to a promise that this would not happen. The workers were given allowances for the year 2006-2007, but are still waiting for the Ministry of Labor to force factory officials and United Bank to award wages and bonuses for 1999-2005.

However, the workers are still fearful that the factory might be sold and that they will loose their claims and will see cuts in wages. Part of the agreement for ending the occupation of 2007 was that in case of the factory changing ownership wages would not be cut.

Management is not bringing in any more production orders with the aim of liquidating the business. Before 2006 the company used to produce 6000 pieces of garments per month to clients around the world. Since 2006 total time spent in production has amounted to no more than one or two month of the entire year.

The workforce has been cut from 1.200 in 2006 to 250 in 2008. Workers have been sacked or left due to the poor work conditions.

The average monthly salary ranges from 150-200 Egyptian pounds (USD 28-37).