Prime Minster Kamal El-Ganzouri was forced to relocate his Cabinet on Monday afternoon from its temporary home at the ministry of planning to the ministry of investment on Cairo’s Salah Salem Street due to ongoing protests by workers.
Workers at the Damietta-based fertiliser factory owned by Misr Fertilizer Production Company in Egypt (MOPCO) have been staging a protest at the planning ministry to demand that the factory reopen.
For two weeks last month, hundreds of protesters had blocked off the port of Damietta to protest the factory’s potential impact on public health and the local environment.
Protesters decided to stage demonstrations outside the planning ministry because that is where the office of the newly appointed prime minister is located.
They held banners aloft noting that studies by experts had proven that the fertiliser factory did not emit waste that might damage the environment.
They also warned that the factory’s ongoing closure would take a toll on Egypt’s economy.
Meanwhile, another group of demonstrators, workers from Misr El-Menoufiya Textiles in the Nile Delta region, had also ratcheted up pressure on El-Ganzouri by congregating outside the planning ministry to demand five months of unpaid salaries.
El-Ganzouri, who was recently granted presidential powers except over military and judicial affairs, eventually came out to listen to the two groups’ demands and attempted to placate them.
The PM asked Damietta workers to await the findings of a commission tasked with determining whether or not the fertiliser factor posed a health or environmental risk.
"I hail from the countryside like you, and I understand your concerns," El-Ganzouri told textile workers, going on to promise both groups of workers that he would look for a swift resolution of their grievances.
He subsequently announced plans to relocate his Cabinet meetings to the ministry of investment.
Outside the Cabinet building on Majlis Al-Shaab Street in downtown Cairo, meanwhile, protesters opposed to military rule continued to block the street with an ongoing sit-in – that first began on 25 November – to oppose El-Ganzouri’s appointment.
These demonstrations had been the primary reason why the prime minister had originally moved his new Cabinet to the planning ministry.