Workers at Egyptian Iron and Steel Company end sit-in

Ahram Online, Sunday 15 Dec 2013

12,000 workers at the country's oldest steel factory ended three weeks of protest after an agreement with the government to pay their owed profit shares in two installments

Workers at Egyptian Iron and Steel
Workers at Egyptian Iron and Steel company raising a sign "we're holding the sit-in until our demands are met" (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

Workers at the Egyptian Iron and Steel Company (HADISOLB) reached an agreement on Sunday with the ministries of industry and of social solidarity to receive their required profit shares in two installments.

Thousands of workers at the state-owned company who have demanded that they be paid profits they are owed have been staging a sit-in since 26 November turning it into a partial strike 10 days ago.

The labour action was triggered by a delay in paying the annual profits owed to the company’s 12,000 workers by the general assembly, which normally allocates 16 months-worth of profit shares to workers each November. 

The agreement between the ministries of commerce and industry and social solidarity entails dismissing the CEO, the return of the workers who were redeployed to other factories as punishment for encouraging the strike, increasing production to reach the factory’s full potential production levels, as well as paying the workers their full shares of profits in two installments.

The agreement did not include improvements in work conditions, an issue the workers plan to discuss with the new board of directors, Mohamed Omar, a worker at the company told Ahram Online.

A minority of the workers opposed the agreement and intend to protest outside the cabinet headquarters in central Cairo, to demand their full shares in profits in a single installment.

"We fear that a new government would not abide by the agreement and we are not sure we will be paid the second installment," Omar told Ahram Online.

At the beginning of the strike, workers’ representatives explained to Ahram Online that the payment is not a true profit share, but rather part of their monthly pay. The company subtracts the amount every month to pay it back to the workers later, in instalments in June and November. 

The workers were demanding the dismissal of the CEO and the president of Metallurgical Industries, as well as the cancellation of punitive decisions against the leaders of the movement, the withdrawal of confidence from the company union, and investigation into alleged corruption within the company. 

The company is known for being the site of one of the most infamous instances of industrial action of the Mubarak era. In 1989, security forces broke into the factory and attacked workers, leaving one dead, many injured and tens detained. 

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