Thousands of workers at the Mahalla Textile and Weaving Company in Mahalla city continued an open strike at their factory on Wednesday for the third day in a row, making several demands, including a 10 percent raise in basic salary.
Faisal Loksha, the leading activist worker at the famous state-owned company in Gharbiya governorate, told Ahram Online that the workers were shocked that they were not given the 10 percent raise in basic salary which was announced by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in May for public sector workers not covered by the civil service law.
The president announced the raise "to lift burdens off the average Egyptian citizen" following the economic reforms adopted by the Egyptian government.
In addition to the 10 percent public sector pay rise, the Egyptian government also reached to an agreement in July with private sector business and labour sector representatives to grant 18 million workers in the private sector a 10 percent raise starting from July.
"The Mahalla Textile and Weaving Company as a state-owned company follows the business sector ministry and for some reason, the minister of the public business sector refuses to issue those raises to the factories following his ministry," Loksha told Ahram Online.
In addition to the 10 percent basic salary raise, the workers are also demanding a 10 percent social benefit raise and an increase in their food allowance, as well as the appointment of a new board of directors to the company to replace the company’s general coordinator.
On Tuesday evening, the general coordinator held a meeting with representatives of the workers, offering them only a 10 percent basic salary raise, in return for ending the strike and returning to work on Thursday. The workers refused the offer and said they would continue the strike until all their demands were met.
Loksha said that the workers had started their open strike on Monday as a final escalation.
"For the past couple of weeks, we have organised short rallies inside the factory after working hours, demanding the raise," he said, adding that they had first tried a partial strike.
"As our demands had not been met, we decided to go on a full strike in the factory," he said describing how the workers come in for their regular shifts in the factory and sit beside their machines, without operating them.
Minister of the Public Business Sector Ashraf El-Sharkawy stated in June that the factory workers and other factory employees, including the Mahalla factory, would not receive the exceptional raise because they received an end-of-year profit share.
Ahram Online spoke with MP Nemat Amar of Mahalla who stated that "the whole problem has been solved."
"Next week the workers will receive a special bonus after an agreement between the general textile and weaving union and Minister El-Sharkawy on Tuesday," she said, urging the workers to get back to work.
She also added that workers did not have the right to ask for the special raise issued by the president as "the civil service law does not apply to public sector companies, or their employees and workers."
"It applies to the workers and employees of the ministries and general authorities only," she told Ahram Online.
Loksha however denied that a deal had been reached between the workers and the government over the raise.
"Nothing was reached, we are still demanding the 10 percent raise as we are citizens in this country working in a public sector company," he said, insisting that the strike will continue until their demands are met.
"The Mahalla MPs can say whatever they want to the reporters or on Facebook but they did not even visit the factory or meet with us," Loksha told Ahram Online.
Mahalla Textile and Weaving Company is one of the biggest textile and cotton companies in the country; the sector as a whole comprises 32 companies and employs 60,000 workers around the country.
In October 2015, the workers of Mahalla Company went on strike for 12 days, to demand they receive a benefit known as the social raise.
The action was successful and they were awarded nine-months worth of the raise.
The company’s workers have placed a major part in political developments in Egypt in the last decade, including in major protests against the Mubarak regime in 2008.