Striking Telecom Egypt workers threaten to cut landline, Internet services

Ahmed Feteha, Sunday 16 Oct 2011

Employees of Egypt's sole landline provider say they will cut all services countrywide if company management isn't dismissed

Telecom Egypt
Telecom Egypt

Employees of Telecom Egypt (TE), Egypt’s sole telephone landline provider, are planning to call an open strike and cut landline and internet services countrywide if their demands to dismiss the company’s upper management are not met.

TE’s telephone directory service (140) and service hotline (111), meanwhile, remain out of service in advance of the anticipated companywide strike action.

Workers demand the resignation of CEO Mohamed Abdel Rehim and the company’s board of directors, whom they accuse of corruption and of causing financial losses to the company. They also demand the release of five colleagues arrested recently for having held Abdel Rehim hostage for 21 hours in the company’s Ataba offices. The five have been charged with attempted murder.

“Our main demand is the resignation of Mohamed Abdel Rehim and the release of our five colleagues,” Mohamed Helmy, president of TE’s independent syndicate in Cairo, said.

Abdel Rehim was appointed CEO of the company in May 2011.

Strikes have already affected the company’s telephone directory services in Cairo and Alexandria, and at Aswan’s main telephone centre.

TE, which serves roughly 10 million subscribers and boasts some 55,000 employees, noted in a press release issued Sunday morning that work was progressing “as usual,” stressing that no workers’ strikes were currently taking place.

According to informed sources speaking to Ahram Online, Abdel Rehim plans to drop all outstanding charges against workers. Such a step, however, may prove insufficient to soothe striking workers’ outrage, says Helmy.

“The strike will only get bigger, and we plan to cut all services,” he said. “We’re not demanding more money – we just want to end company corruption.”

TE provides 70 per cent of Internet service in Egypt and is the sole provider of international phone services. The company also owns 45 per cent of mobile-phone operator Vodafone Egypt.

Company management, for its part, denies all charges of corruption.

“Whoever has proof of administrative or financial corruption by the board of directors should hand it over to the prosecutor general,” Emad El-Azhary, TE’s first executive vice president, told the Masrawy online news portal.

According to Helmy, workers decided to take matters into their own hands after official bodies failed to act on their repeated complaints about the company. “We’re demanding the resignation of the CEO, his deputies and the board of directors,” Helmy stressed.

Abdel Rehim recently told Youm7 newspaper, however, that he would only resign if the entity that appointed him asked him to do so.

Company workers, meanwhile, have yet to be approached for talks by TE management.

The firm realised total net profits of LE826 million ($138.8m) in this year’s second quarter, down from LE971 million in the same period the year before, and down 7.9 per cent from this year’s first quarter.

The company’s share price has not been affected by the current bout of labour unrest, actually gaining 0.81 per cent a half hour before the close of Sunday’s trading session. 

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