In Cairo, groups of workers gathered at a press conference held on Thursday by the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) to give their testimony about the recent wave of strike action at a number of workplaces across Egypt.
The majority of workers present were from the Ain Sokhna port, which has most recently been caught up in a labour dispute with its managing company. Other workers present were from the Encobab Factory, where strikes have also recently taken place.
Shedding light on the issue of temporary workers' rights was Hani Said, a temporary worker with Platinum Maritime Services at the Ain Sokhna port. Recent strike action at the port was aimed at gaining permanent employment contracts with the Dubai-based DP World, which manages the port.
Said told the conference that approximately 1,200 workers have been on strike for almost two weeks now.
"We are demanding that we are granted official status. If our manpower is as dispensable as the management claims, we would not have experienced the shutdown of the Ain Sokhna port," commented Said.
Since October, temporary workers have held recurrent strikes demanding employment with DP World. At the end of last year, however, the dispute escalated when DP World decided to end its service contract with Platinum Maritime Services. As a result, workers' temporary contracts with the subcontractor were terminated.
As a result of their recent strike action, the majority of ships at the port have not been docking. Only tourist ships and basic foodstuff containers are allowed to disembark.
Said claimed that at the same time as contracts were not being renewed, there have been a number of new workers hired, on the basis of nepotism.
"On top of that, we have faced domineering government action. The army is in fact using force against us and demanding we halt our strike and allow the normal flow of the port," referring to an attempt by the army to break up the sit-in and open the gates of the port by force on Tuesday. Following skirmishes, a number of workers were arrested as a result.
According to Said, it is crucial to shed light on the plight of temporary workers, specifically subcontractor company workers, as "when a subcontractor finishes his work, what happens to the workers left behind?"
A lawyer at ECESR, Ziad Bakry, complemented Said's testimony by providing the legal framework by which workers should be guaranteed their rights.
According to Bakry, Article 79 of the Egyptian Labour Law states that if an employer entrusts another firm to carry out work in its workspace, the firm must ensure employment conditions for the company's own workers and those it sub-contracts are equal.
According to Bakry, millions of Egyptian workers are also facing similar issues.
The implementation of the right to healthcare also posed a serious problem for several workers.
A temporary worker for Platinum Maritime Services, Barbary Barbary, said that he recently broke his leg while at work, where he is required to descend 10 metres below ground level. His current health insurance status means he is granted just LE150 every month.
"I did not even receive financial compensation for safety risks, as I should be entitled to," he said.
Shawky Nasr, 60, said he had worked at the Ain Sokhna port since 1997. He presented his situation as a senior citizen who is expected to be ordered to retire soon.
"How is it that a foreign national or company trades with our lives in this way? Where is the dignity we deserve as citizens and which was guaranteed to us by President Mohamed Morsi during his electoral campaign?" said Nasr.
"Unjust capitalist policies are taking root in more vicious ways than before, despite a revolution that was held calling for social justice as a main demand," said Bakry.
Mohamed Soltan of the Encobab factory in Alexandria stated that "the current regime is continuing the same practices of the former regime; it is resulting in great failure for Egyptian workers, who are wasting their dignity on a daily basis without any reaction from the government."