Egypt: one of the terrible ten worst countries for workers’ rights
Egypt can be a tough place for workers with its cases of police brutality, mass arrests, abductions and attempted assassinations. In June last year, 500 workers of a national steel company protested an unpaid bonus promised to them with a two-hour strike. The company retaliated by calling the police and suspending 16 workers, many of whom were unionists. Media recently reported Egypt has now criminalised striking and will penalise striking workers by forcing them into retirement.
Four arrested for going on strike: On 10 April 2014, security forces arrested four Gas Company workers in Alexandria in an attempt to intimidate them into ending their strike. Workers at the company had begun the strike one month earlier in protest at the liquidation of the company owned by the Al Kharafy Group. Negotiations between the company management and workers’ representatives had broken down the previous day.
Security forces went to the workers’ homes in order to arrest Mohammed Saleh, Mohammed Abdel-Rahman, Ahmed Adel and Al Saied Al Semman. The company filed complaints against the protesting workers accusing them of inciting a strike and interrupting workflow. The prosecutor released all four that night.
Reprisals for strike action: Five workers were arbitrarily transferred to different production units by the Egyptian Coke Company on 27 April 2014 for their role in organising a strike. The five concerned were Ayman Sobhi, Ahmed Kassem, Ashraf Mohamed Hassan, Essam Mohamed Hassan and Tharwat Abo Amr. The Prime Minister has intervened on their behalf and the transferred workers were returned to their original positions. However they had five days salary deducted from their pay packet, and were denied the 7% pay rise.
Attempted assassination of union leader: Mohamed Omar, a union leader at the Iron and Steel Company, suffered serious injuries in an assassination attempt on 4 May 2014. At eight o’clock in the morning Mohammed Omar was on his way to the workshop where he worked when he was attacked by two masked men who struck him on the head with an iron bar and left on an unmarked motorcycle. Colleagues took him to hospital where he remained unconscious for several hours.
Mohamed Omar was in the company’s sights after he had led a strike in December 2013. On 22 January he submitted a report to the General Prosecutor accusing Mohamed Saad Negeda, the company Chairman, of bad management and corruption, losing 92% of its capital. He also called on his colleagues to form an independent union.
Arrested for organising a strike for failure to implement collective agreement: Three workers from the Cristal Asfoor Company were detained on 19 May and interrogated at the Subra police station for inciting for a strike. Ahmed Gaber, Hassan Abdel Latif, and Al Sayed Zaki were arrested following a strike at the company’s factories in Shubra Al Khema, and Bahteem. The strike was called to demand implementation of the collective agreement and protest at the termination of thousands employees. The company had lost a lot of money through bad management and corruption.
16 suspended over two-hour stoppage: On 3 June, the National Co of Steel of Port Said, a member of the Al Masren Steel Group, suspended 16 workers. The company’s 500 workers had demanded payment of their 2013 bonus, due in March 2014, but not yet paid. The workers went on strike for two hours to press for their demands, and in response management called in the police. The company then agreed to negotiate with worker’s representatives. However, management then decided to suspend 16 workers including members of the Executive Council of the independent union, namely Mohamed Rashad Taha, President, Montaser Anwar, Secretary General, Mahmoud Moustafa, Treasurer, Mahmoud Gaber, Mohamed Ahmed and Moawad Ibraheem.
The Terrible Ten:
At the ILO conference earlier this month, the International Trade Union Confederation launched its 2015 Global Rights Index, detailing the ten worst countries for workers’ rights abuses in the world, and reporting in detail violations in those and many more. Stronger Unions is profiling one of the terrible ten each day.