Protesting Employees of Cleopatra Ceramics came under fire from Security forces in Suez with tear gas after they stormed a government building and allegedly set fire to offices. Six people on hunger strike were also beaten and taken into custody by the military, activists said.
The workers invaded the Suez administration and security directorate buildings angry over what they see as neglect on the part of President Mohamed Morsy’s government to find an equitable resolution to their case as well as punishment for Cleopatra Ceramics boss, Mohamed AbulEnein.
Egyptian ceramics mogul Mohamed AbulEnein announced on Wednesday his intention to liquidate his interests in his company, Cleopatra Ceramics. Workers are afraid that the sale of the company is a tactic to escape paying employees their due, as was the case with many prominent businessmen ousted by the uprising. Cleopatra Group’s media department said AbulEnein will close all factories and let go of his investments “to focus on his personal life.”
AbulEnein has been banned from leaving the country by the prosecutor general, Egyptian official state news agency MENA reported on Thursday. The prosecutor general’s office is conducting an investigation into allegations that AbulEnein, a long-time Member of Parliament for the former ruling National Democratic Party, has been violating labour laws.
AbulEnein is accused of firing workers from Ain Sokhna and Tenth of Ramadan factories he owns, refusing to honour the agreement he made with the Workers’ Syndicate, as well as not paying his workers their wages and preventing them from doing their jobs. The prosecutor general’s office has called AbulEnein for questioning and has been similarly interviewing his workers.
Shortly after President Morsy’s inauguration, Cleopatra Ceramics employees marched to the presidential palace and demanded a meeting with the president. Morsy met with representatives and promised to deliver a proposal to resolve the dispute, during which time they shortly-suspended their sit-in. However, Morsy’s response on Tuesday proved unsatisfactory. It obligated AbulEnein to pay the workers their past-due wages but then required the employees to bear the financial costs of the losses the company suffered as a result of the employee strikes.
In March, AbulEnein and labour minister Fathi Fekri were held hostage overnight at the Labour Ministry by more than 1,000 angry employees demanding a share of company profits.
In May, 4,000 of the 6,000 total employees at the Cleopatra factory at Ain Sokhna halted production for 12 days complaining that AbulEnein cut transportation services for employees in response to strikes. In both cases, the military brokered deals between the parties in order to enable production to resume. Cleopatra Ceramics employ approximately 20,000 people and is one of the largest ceramics companies in the Middle East.