Egypt's Mahalla workers (Photo: facebook.com/Ravdenkom)
Ten thousand shift workers at the Egyptian public sector Weaving and Textile Company in Mahalla City commenced a strike on Monday morning, claiming the company's administration did not respect the payment deadline for their profit-sharing bonus.
Mahalla workers, totalling around 24,000, went on strike last month after they were paid only half of their agreed bonus (the equivalent of 45 days salary). Management promised they would receive the remaining sum with their August pay checks, but this didn't materialise.
''The ministry of finance delayed the payment because of the current economical situation," Ibrahim Badr, head of the company told Ahram Online. "I cannot say exactly when the money will be available, but it will not take longer than a few days," he added.
In contradiction with the workers story, Badr says only a few hundred of the company's task force went on strike.
The strikers raised other demands, including the dismissal of the head of the Holding Company for weaving and spinning, Fouad Abdel-Alim, and the suspension of the current state-run trade union committee, which has been accused by the workers of siding with management.
''The dismissal of Fouad Abdel-Alim is a main demand. We know him very well. The company will not flourish as long as he is in this position," Kamal El-Fayoumi, a worker who has become a renowned figure after playing a key role in strikes staged before Mubarak’s ouster, told Ahram Online.
"It is not the workers' business to decide who should be dismissed or appointed; it's the state's responsibility," Badr comments.
Negotiations are underway between respresentatives of the workers and the military governor of Al-Mahalla regarding the way out of this stalemate.
The feud between Abdel-Alim and Mahalla workers has been ongoing for years, since he was head of the company.
After 25 January he was removed from his post amidst substantial strikes. ''We believed it (Abdel-Alim's removal from post) was in response to the workers, but the government later promoted him," El-Fayoumi said.
Mahalla workers, with a long tradition of militancy, have led many strikes, both before and after 25 January 2011. They commenced a wave of labour action in 2006, and again in 2008, representing an open challenge to the then-Mubarak regime.
In 2008, the Nile Delta city of Mahalla became home to the largest anti-regime protests of the 30-year Mubarak era.
Beginning as a workers' strike, protests grew into a widespread struggle following clashes with security forces. For the first time, images of a tarnished, trampled upon poster of Mubarak circulated on the internet, signalling the beginning of the fall of Egypt’s then-feared dictator.
Strikes by Mahalla workers against ousted president Mubarak’s regime gained widespread popularity and are believed by many activists and analysts in Egypt to have significantly contributed to setting the stage for the outbreak of the 25 January Revolution.