Egypt security forces teargas Cleopatra Ceramics labour protest in Suez

Ahram Online , Tuesday 17 Jul 2012

Angry workers storm Suez government buildings in frustration at lack of progress on long-standing grievances; security forces fire tear gas to disperse protesters

Cleopatra Ceramic workers protest in downtown Cairo in July (Photo: Ahmed Feteha)

Security forces in Suez fired tear gas at factory workers of the megalith Cleopatra Ceramics company to repel them as they stormed  government buildings on Tuesday.

The workers broke into the Suez administration building in a fury over what they see as government officials' neglect in their battle against the owner of the Cleopatra Ceramics, Mohamed Abul Enein, who was also a former member of Hosni Mubarak's now-dissolved National Democratic Party.

Security forces fired the tear gas to disperse the hundreds of workers after they allegedly set fire to various offices, leaving a number of government personnel choking on gasses.

The factory workers also stormed the security directorate, demanding they prosecute Abul Enein.

According to eyewitnesses, the security forces didn’t interfere until the workers started throwing rocks at army personnel and governorate and security buildings.

Meanwhile, the vice president of the ceramics' factory labour union committee, Ahmed Salah, blamed Abul Enein for tempting the workers' anger by depriving them of their rights, such as stopping the transportation service that would bus the workers to the factory.

A travel ban has been issued against Abul Enein, who is accused of unjustly firing workers and denying them due pay.

In March, around 4,000 of the 6,000 workers employed at the Cleopatra factory in Ain Sokhna, Suez, launched a strike to demand salary increases, bonus payments and a share of company profits.

In May, factory operations were suspended for 12 days after company management stopped providing the free transportation for workers. In response, around 4,000 employees staged a sit-in before the Suez governor's office.

Abul Enein dubbed the labour protests "artificial," and illegal.

Established in 1983, Cleopatra Ceramics claims to export to more than 100 countries and employ around 20,000 people. Its Ain Sokhna factory, relatively close to the Suez Canal, is one of the largest ceramics plants in the Middle East.

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