Some 2300 workers in the 200th military factory in Abou Zaabal district in north Cairo have staged a sit-in for the second consecutive day inside the premises of the plant in protest against the unfulfilled promises made by the factory’s administration to distribute the money of the retirement fund.
When Ahram Online asked Muhammad Bastawy, a factory employee, if an employee should receive their share now, before retirement age, Bastawy responded that he and his all associates fear their money will be embezzled and would leave the facility workers empty-handed if they don’t act now.
The angry civilian workers allege that the money deposited in the one general retirement fund surpasses LE12m, and separately, sums deposited into a housing retirement fund reach LE 64m.
The workers argue that the former chairman of the board, who has resigned, should respect their 94 per cent “Yes” vote in their referendum on whether to release the funds. The fact that no funds have to date been released to workers and the ex-chairman’s lack of action heightens workers’ fears.
“All documents and files that prove our rights have been burnt after the Friday of Anger on 28 January,” Muhammad Bastawy, a factory employee, told Ahram Online, referring to the first day of Egypt’s revolution where chaos broke out: police cracked down heavily on peaceful protesters and many state buildings were set ablaze.
“We will not end our sit-in until we get our money back and an investigation of financial violations committed by the administration is conducted,” says Bastawy. “A delegation representing the workers is heading now to the ministerial council to meet with Prime Minister Dr Essam Sharaf to voice our concerns” he adds.
The 200th military factory abides by military laws that govern military facilities. A few years ago a number of workers were prosecuted by military courts on accusations of exercising a sit-in inside a military facility.
“After the 25 January Revolution that toppled President Mubarak and his notorious regime, the situation is completely different: we are civilian workers demanding our rights,” Bastawy said.
The 200th military factory outside Cairo is one of the largest military manufacturing facilities in Middle East. Military production is centred on M1A1 military tanks and other armoured vehicles. Its American-trained Egyptian workforce is highly skilled and has access to state-of-the-art production and maintenance machinery.