Egypt's labour minister, Cleopatra Ceramics head freed as workers' demands are met

Ahram Online, Friday 16 Mar 2012

Disgruntled employees at ceramics giant release their 'hostages' after reaching a long-awaited agreement for better pay and conditions

Cleopatra Ceramics
Cleopatra ceramics (Photo: Company logo)

Egypt's labour minister and the head of Cleopatra Ceramics, the country's largest tile producer, were released early Friday morning after being held overnight by around 1,000 disgruntled factory employees at the Labour Ministry in Cairo, according to a report on Ahram's Arabic-language portal.

Labour minister Fathi Fekri and Cleopatra Ceramics owner Mohammed Abul-Einein were freed at 6am following a military-brokered deal that granted employees from the Ain Sokhna factory their long-held demand for a share of company profits.
A military police official, Major General Hamdi, helped the two sides reach an agreement, according to Ahram. The pact was reportedly signed at the ministry in Madinat Nasr, eastern Cairo, by Cleopatra workers and Abul-Einein in the presence of the labour minister.
The 15-point accord agrees to pay Ain Sokhna workers a share of company profits equivalent to two months of salary for each of the last three years, up to a maximum of LE5,000 per year.
Other clauses cover extra allowances and promised increased compensation for riskier work. The employer also vows to refrain from "taking any retaliatory action" against its workers.
Earlier in March, around 4,000 workers at Cleopatra Ceramics' factory in Ain Sokhna, Suez governorate, initiated a strike demanding salary increases, bonus payments and a share of company profits. 
Eight Italian and two Spanish consultants visiting the factory were also briefly held by demonstrators, with military police being involved in an attempt to secure their release.
Abul-Einein met workers’ representatives at the factory at the time and agreed on the sums of LE25,000 as maximum retirement bonuses, LE300 for meal allowances and LE10 for additional work shifts. But he refused to meet workers' demands for shares in the factory’s profits. 
Established in 1983, Cleopatra Ceramics says it has a presence in more than 100 world markets. Its factory in Ain Sokha is one of the largest ceramics plants in the Middle East.
Abul-Einein was a member of ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s now-defunct National Democratic Party.Following last year's uprising early he was summoned for questioning in a number of corruption case but was never charged with any wrongdoing.
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