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Workers’ strike issue still unresolved - Daily News Egypt

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Workers’ strike issue still unresolved

Government fails to solve the problem nearly one month after the beginning of the strike

Union leaders, ministers and worker representatives are set to meet separately on Tuesday to reach a solution for the Egyptian Iron and Steel Company (HADISOLB) workers’ problem, after several parties disapproved of Saturday’s brokered deal.

According to the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), a meeting between Minister of Investment Osama Saleh and Minister of Planning Ashraf El-Araby will take place Tuesday and will be chaired by Head of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation Abdel Fattah Ibrahim and a number of other heads of public unions. The meeting will discuss the Iron and Steel workers’ problems as well as means of modernising and pumping investment into factories. Also on the agenda are methods of re-operating closed-down factories, returning dismissed workers and amending labour regulations.

Ibrahim is also set to hold a meeting on Monday with Minister of Manpower Kamal Abu Eita in an attempt to resolve the workers crisis; he said that heavy losses were incurred during the strike despite the fact that the factory did not halt production.

Approximately 5,000 workers at the company’s Helwan factory started striking on 25 November. Mohamed Omar, the alleged leader of the strike, said on 4 December that their demands include payment of their profit share, improvement of working conditions, the removal of company board members and the return of dismissed workers.

13,000 workers are owed a total of EGP 192m for 16 months worth of production bonuses.

The workers’ strike ended on its 19th day on Saturday, after the government pledged to pay a fraction of the owed profit share and meet the other demands. A statement on Saturday by the workers read: “Over the course of Thursday and Friday, continued negotiations between the Minister of Social Solidarity Ahmed El-Boraie, Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour and worker representatives ended in a signed agreement to meet the workers’ demands.”

According to workers present during the finalisation of Saturday’s deal, the government pledged EGP 100m to be paid to the workers immediately and the rest would be paid before 1 June.

On Sunday, however, several workers protested outside the cabinet, claiming that the brokered deal failed to meet their demands, prompting the return of conflicts. The protesters expressed their discontent with the deal due to its failure to immediately provide the entire amount of profit shares owed to them.

Bassem Fawzi, a worker who took part in the strike, said: “Most of the workers’ demands are unified, but a fraction of the workers are unhappy with the payment of the remaining amount of their owed profit shares in June.”

“The government will change in June, and thus there is a risk policies will change; this may jeopardise the payment of the rest of the money owed to workers,” Fawzi said.

Amr Abdel-Rashid, another worker who was not satisfied with the deal, said that the workers who took part in the negotiations do not represent the strikers and that the workers’ demands have already been publicised.

“If the government wishes to negotiate, we will be striking at the factory headquarters in Helwan… we do not need a representative to relay demands anymore,” Rashid said.

Other unsatisfied parties include worker representatives from the union who criticised the government’s approach to dealing with the issue. Chairman of the General Union for Engineering Industries and worker representative Khaled Al-Feki said that as a union representative, he was not notified of the deal and that the jurisdictions of the ministries overlapped in dealing with the issue.

“For me, the deal does not exist,” Al-Feki said. “The intervention by the Minister of Social Solidarity Ahmed El-Boraie and the Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, two ministers who do not have jurisdiction over the workers, epitomises how the government is confused in this whole predicament.”

Emad Abdel Halim, one of the workers who attended the talks, said that the way the issue was addressed during negotiations was unsatisfactory; it was agreed that 10 months worth of profit would be paid soon, but the remaining amount would be paid within six months.

An apparent division had been present among the workers since the beginning of the strike after a controversy arose over who would represent them. Omar claimed to be the leader of the strike, while the Ministry of Manpower and General Union announced that Feki was the legitimate representative. Both representatives have been making conflicting claims regarding the workers’ demands, with Feki alleging that removing the board of directors was “not part of the demands”. Currently, neither Feki nor the workers who protested at the cabinet recognise the deal.

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