Suez Canal workers stage new sit-in, to meet military governor Monday

Bassem Abo Alabass, Sunday 3 Jul 2011

Disgruntled workers promise further disruptive action if tomorrow's meeting with the governor fails to address their pay and bonus demands

Suez Canal protest
Banner shows workers at Suez Canal Authority companies demanding that the company chairman step down

Power is back in the Port Tawfik district of Suez after an hour-long shutdown by Suez Arsenal Company protesters ended with negotiations between armed forces and angry employees.

"Tomorrow we will meet the military governor in Suez city to present our demands, and if the response is undesirable we will shut the electricity off again," threatened Nasser Othman, treasurer of the Arsenal company’s workers’ syndicate, speaking to Ahram Online by phone.
Saud Omar, a member of the Suez Canal’s workers syndicate, said protesters at Suez Canal companies are striking for their rights not only their demands.
"Despite my position involving main canal operations, I am supporting other companies' workers," he said.
Omar added that the International Labor Organization convention, to which Egypt is signatory, gives workers across the world the right to represent themselves.
Suez Canal subsidiaries are located in three cities -- Suez, Port Said and Ismailiya -- with Suez not the only city to see protests.
In Port Said around 850 workers are staging a sit-in at subsidiary Al-Hebal's headquarters, insisting on their demands. "The other two sister-companies in the city are not in solidarity with us," said Ahmed Farghaly, a member of Al-Hebal company’s syndicate.
In Ismailiya, some 800 workers are still protesting in front of headquarters of the two Suez Canal’s subsidiaries Al-Temsah and Al-Mawany.
"Tomorrow we will shut Silla [the main bridge to the Suez Canal’s guidance premise in Suez], as an escalation in action for them not answering
 our calls," Galal El-Gezawy, a worker at Al-Mawany said.
El-Gezawy says there were clashes between military police and workers on the main bridge early on Sunday morning.
Workers of the Suez Arsenal Company earlier on Sunday shut down the electricity to Port Tawfik district in Suez, locking the gates of company premises.
Employees have been protesting for 21 days, demanding increases in bonus and benefits, without any response from the Suez Canal Authority, which owns the companies. 
Ahram Online tried to contact officials at the Canal Authority but they were not available for comment.
On 26 June, employees from two Suez Canal companies in Ismailiya escalated their actions by demanding the resignation of Suez Canal Authority Chairman, Ahmed Fadel.
"Suez Canal's Fadel incited the employees of the main canal operations against us. It was something like a counter-revolution," said one of the Suez Company employees, claiming the Authority paid other workers a bonus to attack them.
Protesters in the cities of Ismailiya and Suez also blocked key roads on 20 June.
Company workers began protests on 3 April demanding they receive pay equivalent to those who work for the Suez Canal Authority. Interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has given orders to the head of the Authority to resolve the situation.
Employees are demanding a 40 per cent increase in basic salary, 7 per cent bonus payments and a hike in their meal allowances. Workers claim that Ahmed Fadel, CEO of the Suez Canal Authority, promised them raises in pay and bonuses on 19 April.
Main canal operations are still functioning despite disruptions to supporting services. The Suez Canal is one Egypt's main foreign currency earners, generating US$4.5 billion in 2009-2010.
Egyptian armed forces fired live ammunition in the air on 19 June in Suez in an attempt to force protesting workers from the Suez Arsenal Company to end their sit-in. 
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