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Suez Steel strike leaders released, strike enters 27th day

Two workers arrested for inciting strike released on bail as negotiations between workers and Suez Steel management fail to yield a settlement

Ahram Online, Wednesday 14 Aug 2013
Suez Steel strike
File photo: Egypt soldiers in Suez (Photo: Al-Ahram)
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Two arrested strike leaders from Egypt’s Suez Steel company were released on bail, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported on Tuesday evening.

The striking workers were released after fellow workers protested in front of the Suez court on Tuesday to demand the release of their comrades.

The police had arrested the striking workers on Monday in a sit-in held at their factory in Al-Ataqa industrial zone in Suez.

The judge had ruled to extend the custody of the workers, arrested on charges for inciting strike, for 15 days.

The workers were released on a LE500 bail on Tuesday evening.

Shortly before, the Egyptian armed forces, released a statement claiming that infiltrators, who used religion to incite sedition among the workers, incited the protests.

The Egypt army had been involved in preventing striking workers from blocking a key highway between Suez and Ain Al-Sokhna road on Monday.

Some 2,100 workers from the private sector steel company are taking part in the strike, which has now entered its 27th day, to demand higher pay.

The ministry of manpower bureau in Suez held a session on Monday night to mediate the dispute between the company’s workers and company management, but they did not reach any compromise.

Al-Ahram quoted Khaled Abu Bakr, the managing director of the bureau, as saying that members of the Ceramicsa Cleopatra workers syndicate with an allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood –have joined the Suez Steel sit-in in solidarity.

It had also quoted one of the striking workers, Ahmed Said, insisting that the workers "will not negotiate with the management over any demand until their detained fellows released."

The two arrested workers were part of a larger group of fifteen accused by company management of inciting workers to strike, Mohamed Soliman, head of legal affairs at the private sector company, told Ahram Online on Monday.

Last week, Suez Steel, which employs 2,200 workers on contracts and another 2,000 day workers, threatened to cut down its workforce in response to the strike, claiming profit losses worth LE925 million over the past three years.

Suez Steel was established in 1997 and was 80-percent owned by Banque du Caire.

The company was privatised in 2007 and purchased by Solb Misr, which is owned by Gamal El-Garhy, a prominent Egyptian businessman.

Currently, Solb Misr owns subsidiaries Misr National Steel and Egyptian Company for Iron & Steel Products alongside Suez Steel.

Solb Misr, along with Beshay Steel and Egyptian Steel share 35 percent of the market.

Ezz steel is the dominant steel producer in Egypt and MENA with around 55 percent of the local steel market.

Steel imports represent the remaining 10 percent.

Solb Misr's steel production capacity stands at two million tonne per annum.

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