The demands of striking iron and steel workers will soon be met, said Khaled Al-Feki, the chairman of the General Union for Engineering Industries and worker representative for Egyptian Iron and Steel (HADISOLB) on Wednesday.
“Despite the rumours, our only demand is the improvement of our working conditions and not the removal of the board,” he said.
Al-Feki went on to add his thanks to Minister of Manpower and Immigration Kamal Abu Eita for his efforts in resolving the issue.
Approximately 5,000 workers at the company’s Helwan factory entered their ninth day of strikes Wednesday. Mohamed Omar, alleged leader of the strike, said that their demands include payment of their profit share, an improvement of working standards, the removal of the company’s board members and the return of dismissed workers.
“The company has approximately 13,000 workers with unpaid profit share reaching EGP192m,” Omar said.
Ministry of Manpower and Immigration spokesman Alaa Awad said that Abu-Eita “has been dedicated to the workers’ cause ever since the start of the strike, and has been in constant contact with the representatives.”
However, Awad said the ministry did not recognise Mohamed Omar as the official leader of the striking workers, and “only deals with Al-Feki on their behalf.”
“A meeting had in fact occurred on Monday between Abu-Eita and over 20 workers from the strike,” he added. “Omar was not present in our meeting with the workers; he is insignificant.”
However, Omar denied that any “prominent figures” had met with the workers, and dismissed the idea that Al-Feki represents them. “No one represents us except the workers within the strike,” he said. “The chairman of the company, the Minister of Manpower and union leaders have all claimed that they have met with us, but have yet to come speak with us.”
After Tuesday’s weekly cabinet meeting Abu-Eita relayed the demands of the workers to Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi, who decided to “promptly reserve the profit share required by the workers and pay them within 72 hours,” according to the ministry spokesman. The profits had not been paid prior to this “due to difficulties faced by the government and economic problems related to this year’s fiscal deficit within the company.”
The spokesman added that the “amount the government will pay cannot be disclosed at the moment but will hopefully satisfy the striking workers’ needs.”
The biggest trade union federation in Egypt, the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) addressed the issue on Tuesday saying that “the demands of striking iron and steel workers are a priority” on its agenda, announcing that it “holds the government fully responsible for the deterioration of the situation.”