Alexandria Spinning and Weaving workers strike for public sector benefits

Bassem Abo Alabass, Tuesday 1 Nov 2011

About 2,500 workers are refusing to work for the sixth day as they demand the same allowances and bonuses as public employees, a measure they claim is stipulated in the textile firm's privatisation contract

Polvara strike
Striking workers at Polvara in early Octoberdemand renationalisation (Photo: Ibrahim Mahmoud)

Alexandria Spinning and Weaving Company is facing a large-scale strike by its workforce in Egypt's second city, as they demand allowances and bonuses on a par with public sector employees.

The industrial unrest, which has lasted five days, has left the textile giant unable to file its annual financial results with the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority, it announced on Tuesday.

In a statement to the Egyptian stock exchange, the firm said its employees have been striking since Thursday 27 October, prompting a shutdown of its production facilities in Alexandria.
Labour representatives with whom Ahram Online spoke explained the reasons for the industrial action.
"About 2,500 workers are on strike demanding they get the same advantages as public sector workers -- a LE90 meal allowance and a LE220 monthly bonus," Ragab Marei, head of Alexandria Spinning and Weaving's workers' syndicate, told Ahram Online by phone.
Marei claimed that even though the formerly state-owned company was privatised in 1997, the contract of sale between the government and its private buyers includes an article stipulating that workers continue to receive public sector privileges.
"We are not the only privatised company that has this arrangement. They should admit we are right and pay us," he said. 
Despite repeated attempts to contact managing director Rifaat Helal, Ahram Online was unable to get any clear response from the company.
Marei claimed that a previous six-day strike caused Alexandria Spinning and Weaving LE 2 million in losses, pointing out that the firm is one of Egypt's most prosperous textile companies, bringing in pre-tax profits of over LE30 million.
The firm has two premises in Cairo; the main complex in Alexandria and a recently opened branch in Sadat City. Only the first is on strike, Marei said.
Alexandria Spinning and Weaving was established in 1959 and exports around US$20 million per year to global markets. 
It reported net profits of LE22.475 million for the first 9 months of the 2010/11 financial year, up from the LE10.82m logged for the same period in the previous year.
Demands from Alexandria Spinning workers reflect a growing trend in industrial protests in the wake of February's ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
On 21 September, an Egyptian court ruled for the renationalisation of three companies: Shebin El-Kom Textile Company, the Tanta Company for Linen and Derivatives and the Steam Boilers Company.
The decision has led workers at previously state-owned firms to increasingly eye the perceived benefits of public sector employment -- chief among them, job security and guaranteed allowances.
In early October, workers at Polvara Spinning and Weaving held a protest that lasted over a week demanding the re-nationalisation of the company. The action, which prompted the firm to temporarily shut down production, was the latest of three sit-ins by Polvara workers voicing the same demand.
Last Thursday, around 2,000 workers blocked a central Cairo thoroughfare demanding the court decisions to renationalise the companies for which they work be fully enforced.
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