Hundreds of workers at Orascom Construction and Industries (OCI) are continuing with their sit-in that began last Thursday. The workers say they were instructed today to evacuate the location, situated on the Cairo-Alexandria desert road, by next Monday.
The workers fear the liquidation of the factory, stated the Center for Trade Union and Workers' Services.
The company's management has promised to relocate the workers to the two other branches of the firm, in 6th October City and Sokhna (120 km east Cairo).
One worker who spoke to Ahram Online on condition of anonymity, however, expressed concerns regarding the management's offer, since the two other branches are expected to be liquidated too.
According to spokespersons for the over-500 worker sit-in, the management wants to move the 250 workers with permanent contracts to the other two firms and lay off the others.
Since last August, when the factory had over 1000 workers, OCI began laying off small groups of 25-30 workers. Last Thursday, the administration wanted to abruptly lay off 150 workers, an incident that angered the workers. The workers were shocked to learn that the company’s land on the Cairo-Alexandria desert road was already sold.
Furthermore, the workers claim when they went to file complaints with the Ministry of Manpower's labor office in Kerdassa they discovered that resignations had been signed on their behalf by OCI behind their backs over a year ago, and that the company had also signed new contracts for them with National Steel Fabrication Company (NSF), another OCI company, located in 6th October City.
"Signing a resignation means that the workers don’t have the right to collect any end of service premiums. Moreover, having contracts with NSF means they don't have the right to refuse to move to the new location since that is now their work location according to the new contracts," explains Mohamed Abdel-Salam, member of the general assembly of the General Trade Union for Engineering Industries.
"We didn’t change contracts. We just changed the name of the companies three years ago and we informed the Egyptian Social Insurance Authority of the new name," says Sherry Bichara, head of the human resources department at OCI, "All workers will keep their positions and benefits within the new companies." Bichara added that the company will sign an agreement with the Ministry of Manpower and Immigration and the Egyptian Trade Union Federation on Thursday stating that all worker contracts are still valid.
Bichara blamed the workers for not having a representative. "They refused to elect someone to talk with the administration. They are divided, some want to leave, others don’t want to leave their homes. They refuse to negotiate," says Bichara.
The workers, on the other hand, told Ahram online that they were not only transferred without permission to a remote location, they were told their original salaries would be cut. Their main demand is to not be denied their end of service premiums -- a minimum of two months salary for each year of work.