Egypt’s Mahalla Spinning and Weaving workers strike, demand social bonus

Ahram Online , Thursday 22 Oct 2015

A labourer works at a textile mill in Mahalla el-Kubra, about 110 km north of Cairo (File photo: Reuters)

Most of the 18,000 workers at Egypt's largest public textile company, the Mahalla Spinning and Weaving Company, are taking part in the third day of a strike to demand their inclusion in this year's social bonus, workers say.

In September, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi issued a decree to pay state employees a social bonus of 10 percent of their basic salaries, starting from July salaries. The decree excludes the six million employees who are subject to the social services law.

The regulations and specifications of the decree were issued by the ministry of finance the same week, excluding public sector workers from the bonus.

"This is the first time that we have been excluded from the social bonus," Faisal Laqousha, worker at the factory, told Ahram Online in a phone interview.

"This bonus is different from the annual 7 percent bonus, but we receive it annually and its rate varies from year to year," he added.

The government cancelled the public sector workers’ entitlement to the social bonus, commissioner-general at the company, Ibrahim Bedair, told Ahram Online. He did not specify when the decision was made.

The spokesperson at the ministry of finance, Ayman El-Qaffas, had no comment to Ahram Online and said that a statement will be issued shortly by the ministry.

The workers sent the management an ultimatum earlier this month, saying that they would refuse to accept their salaries if the 10 percent social bonus was not included.

The strike began with the 3,000 clothing workers on Tuesday but more than 10,000 other workers joined the strike in the latter two days, Kamal El-Fayoumi, former worker at the factory and leading labour activist, told Ahram Online on the phone.

The strike is threatening the company’s obligations to its buyers, adding to its losses, said Bedair without specifying the company losses.

Mahalla workers began a wave of strikes in 2006, and again in 2008, in one of the most significant challenges to the Hosni Mubarak regime before the 2011 revolution.

Egypt's annual inflation rate hit 9.2 percent in September.

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