By Joel Gulhane and Hassan Ghonema
Workers at the construction site of a power station in Ain Sokhna have been striking since Saturday over the appointment of a large number of workers from Ismailia. The Minister of Electricity and Energy, Mahmoud Balbaa, held a meeting on Monday with representatives of the workers to try and resolve the strike.
The strike began as the workers are demanding that the ministry employ them with a fixed contract. The workers form the ministry are paid better than the workers employed by the construction companies. The striking workers, chanting “employ us or kill us”, have closed the site and have not allowed engineers to enter.
According to one striking worker, “the strike reached a climax when the decision was taken to employ workers from Ismailia without taking into account the demands of the people of Suez who are entitled to these jobs.”
The East Delta Electricity Production Company (EDEPCO), a state owned company is overseeing the construction of the site. The chairman of the Ain Sokhna branch of the company, Hamdy Ibrahim said, “the striking workers want to work in the company but we need workers with particular skills which we could not find in the local area.” Ibrahim added “I expect the workers to go back to work tomorrow. The ministry will make a decision and the workers will have to accept it. Unfortunately I cannot employ everybody.”
A statement published on the ministry website expressed concern over the consequences of the strike were it to continue. It said, “such strikes could lead to the suspension of foreign companies’ contracts and the departure of foreign experts working in Egypt will cause the project to fall behind schedule.”
The statement also said when completed, “the plant will have a capacity of 1,300 megawatts and there are investments in the plant of up to EGP 10 billion. The first unit is scheduled to be operational before the summer of 2013 and the second by 2014.”