Protests have entered their fifth day at an El Ezz Ceramics & Porcelain Co. (Gemma) factory outside Cairo as 900 employees continue their sit-in demanding improved pay and working conditions.
Gemma suspended production at its factory in Al-Sadat city, 25 kilometres from Cairo, last Wednesday, just a few hours after strikes began. The company is part of the Ezz Group, headed by former NDP whip Ahmed Ezz, currently on trial on charges of illegal profiteering.
Striking employees have posted 11 demands, including a minimum monthly wage of LE1,200, the right to form a syndicate, the fixing of bonus payments and shares of annual profits for workers. They also demand allowances for meals and the recruitment of 670 employees on temporary contracts. The demonstrations have had mixed success, say participants.
"The administration refused to give the workers their main demand of a minimum wage, saying the minister of manpower has asked for two months to make a decision," says Saad Shaaban, an activist for an independent union and a former member of the official trade union in Al-Sadat city.
Gemma is refusing to reinstate the payment of profit shares and meal allowances to employees, practices it stopped in 2001. But the company has bowed to two demands regarding workers’ rights.
"The administration approved the creation of a syndicate that will be formed soon, and it agreed to recruit temporary workers before the end of June,” says Shaaban.
These partial concessions have failed to satisfy employees, who have vowed to continue their sit-in.
The Beshay Steel factory, also in Al-Sadat city, saw strikes on Saturday, with 9,000 workers demanding the 15 per cent bonus payments recently announced by Egypt’s Minister of Finance. Most Beshay employees returned to work on Sunday, but 1,500 temporary workers were denied entry to production sites and resumed their protest in front of the factory.
"The administration managed to divide the workers," says Shaaban.