Textile workers to go on strike in Egypt's largest factory

Mostafa Ali, Ahram Online, Monday 5 Sep 2011

Mahallah workers, who played a pivotal role in ending Mubarak's 30-year rule, plan to walk off the job on Saturday to voice outstanding grievances

Mahallah workers destroy Mubarak Posters during 2008 strike (Photo: Hossam El-Hamalawy)

Twenty-two thousand workers at the Egypt Weaving and Textile Company in Mahallah city, the country’s largest public sector textile factory, have announced that they will begin an open-ended strike on 10 September.

On Saturday workers issued a statement that outlines their grievances and demands and asked for public support.

Workers demand that the government of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf increase its capital investment in the company and guarantee adequate supplies of raw cotton for production.

They also want the government to raise the minimum wage in order to keep up with rising inflation levels and to release 2-month-old outstanding merit pay checks.

In their statement, Mahallah workers said that they plan to struggle, not only to improve their own lives, but also to win a decent standard of living for all Egyptian workers.

Mohamed El-Attar, a leading Mahallah organiser, told Ahram Online that a delegation from the factory is headed to Cairo today to present workers'demands to the office of the prime minister.

Strikes by Mahallah workers in 2006 and in 2008 against ousted president Mubarak’s regime gained widespread popularity, and are believed by many activists and analysts in Egypt to have partly set the stage for the outbreak of the January 25 Revolution.

In fact, a strike by Mahallah workers on 8 February helped to seal Mubarak’s fate and forced him to step down as president on 11 February.

Mahallah workers have also played a key role for years in labour struggles against the Mubarak-controlled Egyptian federation of trade unions. Last month, under pressure from Egypt’s rising independent trade union movement, Prime Minister Sharaf agreed to dismantle the executive board of the old federation.

A leading Mahallah trade union activist, Wael Habib, currently sits on a special committee appointed by Sharaf’s cabinet to oversee a total overhaul of pro-Mubarak union structures.

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