Hundreds of workers from the Shebin El-Kom textile company in the central Delta region north of the capital have been simultaneously celebrating and protesting in Cairo all week long.
On Sunday night tens of Shebin workers joined 300 other public sector workers and supporters who packed the German cultural centre's events venue in downtown Cairo to celebrate a landmark court judgement issued on 21 September that reversed an earlier decision by the Mubarak regime to privatise the firm and sell it to an Indonesian company, returning it to state ownership.
Workers from the Tanta Company for Linen and Derivatives and the Steam Boilers Company, who are also slated to see their companies return to public control from private ownership, attended the celebration.
In 2007 the Indorama Group, established in Indonesia by the Lohia family, acquired the fixed assets of the state-owned Misry Shebin El-Kom Spinning and Weaving Company from the Egyptian government during the country’s wave of privatisation, subsequently changing its name to Indorama Shebin Textiles Co SAE.
Shebin workers, with the support of labour activists and lawyers, fought a four-year battle in courts and on the street to return their firm to public ownership.
Earlier Sunday, the textile workers, aiming to build on their legal victory, started a sit-in opposite the holding company in the nearby Abdeen district to call for the ousting of the company's current board of directors.
On Tuesday, the workers took their protest to the Cabinet's headquarters, also in downtown Cairo, to demand that the government sack all current members of the board and appoint a fresh slate.
Later Tuesday, Shebin workers workers suspended their two-day-old sit-in.
Ragab Sheemi, one of three workers once wrongfully sacked but later rehired by the Indonesian management told Ahram Online: “We have suspended our sit-in for one week. If the court decision is not enforced, we will return to Maglis Al-Dawla (the State Council, an administrative court) and resume our protest.”
Shebin's workers have three major demands, says Sheemi, specifically: “The formation of an honest managing board, the payment of all benefits and dues to the workers and the speedy acquisition of the company from the hands of the holding company.”
Sami, another worker from the Menoufiya based company, stated: “We are opposed to the formation of a managing board which consists of old, corrupt members.”
The workers will be celebrating their court success on Thursday at the Spinning Club, but this time in their hometown of Shebin El-Kom.