New clampdown on Mahalla workers (Egypt)

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Khawaga's picture
Khawaga
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Apr 15 2007 08:26
New clampdown on Mahalla workers (Egypt)

I just received a text (at 9.35 am) from a member of the Revolutionary Socialist Organization (trots) saying that state security have besieged the workers in Mahalla preventing them from going to Cairo. The workers started a strike immediately protesting security intimidation. Ghazl Shebeen workers have declared their solidarity and is threatening to launch a new strike.

A 100 strong delegation from the Mahalla textile workers were supposed to come to Cairo today 10 am today to meet with the head of the General Federation of Trade Unions for negotiations over the workers' January demands. This was to include improvement of workers' conditions and impeachment of their factory union committee (which repeatedly took the side of the bosses during the strike in December). The Mahalla workers were threatening a sit-in and strike if their demands were not met.

This crackdown comes in the wake of the Ministry of Social Affairs officials, in the company of State Security agents, shut down the Center of Trade Union and Workers’ Services branch in Mahalla, on Wednesday. A delegation of Mahalla workers were going to go to the offices of the Ministry of Social Affairs to protest this.

It is not a surprise that the regime is now cracking down. Historically the regimes' response to strikes have been a combination of (first) concession and (then) repression. This typically meant that demands about wages and bonuses have been met to defuse strikes and then after awhile the state security would arrest "ringleaders" and make sure that there would be no new strikes. It has only been a question of time as to when the regime would start cracking down on the Mahalla workers, and though they've continuously been harassed by state security since the December strike, the recent closure of the CTUWS offices in Mahalla and the siege today signal something new.

The regime probably had to do something now. According to al-Masr el-Yom there were about 220, mostly wildcat, strikes in Egypt in 2006. Central security is now cracking down on all forms of dissent; the Muslim Brotherhood, the liberal Hizb al-Ghad (Tomorrow Party), the eclectic protest movement Kefaya (Enough!) and the increasingly influential blogosphere.

A few weeks ago the National Democratic Party's (the Mubarak party) constitutional amendments were passed in a rigged referendum. Protests against these amendments were met with heavy repression. The amendments include further privatization of Egypt's economy, feudalization of the country side, setting up Gamal Mubarak as the next president and incorporated the 25 year old state of emergency into the legal system (in essence an Egyptian Patriot Act).

The details of what has happened today is still sketchy and some facts are unconfirmed. I just heard that two sections of the Mahalla factory has been closed and the machines have been stopped. The strike there does not (yet) include all the workers.

I'll try to give updates on what's going on as soon as I get new info (in this post). If a solidarity delegation is going to Mahalla I will join them.

Some background on the Egyptian strikes (they've been posted before by others):
Egypt: Strikes Continue despite clampdown

Egyptian Textile Worker Strike: The Story Behind the Story

Egyptian Textile Workers Confront the New Economic Order

Arabawy is probably the best English language source on the recent strikes in Egypt.

Tojiah's picture
Tojiah
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Apr 15 2007 14:58

Good luck and take care.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
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Apr 15 2007 17:17

I don't know if this is related but 15 members of the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested in Cairo today.

Atlemk do you know how to post stories to the news section? because this is really interesting and it might get seen a little more if it's there.

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Joseph Kay
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Apr 16 2007 07:58

I've posted it to news here - atlemk, if you don't know how to post news and you'd like to know, post here or pm me - cheers for the update!

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Khawaga
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Apr 16 2007 09:38

For an update on what happened yesterday please read Hossam el-Hamalawy's update .

The blog posting makes it clear that only one section in the Mahalla factory actually struck, and only for 45 minutes. The threatened solidarity strike by the Ghazl Shabeen workers was apparently just a threat.

Quote:
I don't know if this is related but 15 members of the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested in Cairo today.

I don't think the detained MBrothers are related, in any other way than that the regime is just cracking down on all sorts of opposition. A lot of MB members have been arrested lately (it used to be a once a year thing, something Mubarak did to remind the MB that he can fuck with them).

Yesterday a prominent MB blogger got arrested, is he one of the MB arrestees you were referring to?

Quote:
I've posted it to news here - atlemk, if you don't know how to post news and you'd like to know, post here or pm me - cheers for the update!

Cheers Joseph. I checked out how to post to the news section and it looks uncomplicated. Next time I will post there.

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jef costello
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Apr 16 2007 15:59
atlemk wrote:
Yesterday a prominent MB blogger got arrested, is he one of the MB arrestees you were referring to?

Possibly, I just read on a french newswire that 15 members had been arrested, didn't get any more info.

Mike Harman
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Feb 20 2008 10:42

Looks like there's more going on again. Excuse the source:

http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=14239

Quote:
Tens of thousands of workers challenge dictator

Workers at the Ghazl el-Mahalla textile mill in Egypt staged a mass demonstration last Sunday, calling for the end of the US-backed regime of Hosni Mubarak.

The textile mill is the biggest in the Middle East. Its 27,000-strong workforce has been instrumental in forcing the regime into making economic concessions.

The workers stormed out of their factory chanting, “Down, down Hosni Mubarak! Your rule is shit!” As they spilled out into the Nile Delta town they were joined by up to 10,000 local people.

The protest inside the factory began by demanding a rise in the national minimum wage. The demonstration was called the day before the National Council for Wages – the government body in charge of setting the minimum wage – was due to convene for the first time since the mid-1980s.

The minimum wage in Egypt has been held at £3.26 a month since 1984 – while inflation has rocketed. The workers are demanding the government raise the minimum wage to £112 a month.

The protest was organised in secret by left wing activists in the factory. Bosses called in police in riot gear. At this point the workers stormed the gates and drove them away.

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Khawaga
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Feb 20 2008 10:53

Yeah, it's pretty big. I need to start writing n the goings on in Egypt again, I've been very lax lately.