Workers maintain strike at Egypt's Sokhna Port over contract dispute

Karim Hafez , Tuesday 5 Feb 2013

1200 workers at maritime services company demand permanent employment contracts with Dubai-based DP World

Ain Sokhna Port
Ain Sokhna Port (Photo: Al-Ahram)

The labour dispute at Egypt's Ain Sokhna seaport remains unresolved, with almost 1200 workers of Platinum Maritime Services – a subcontractor at the seaport – demanding employment contracts with Dubai-based DP World, which manages the port.

According to workers, port operations have ground to a halt due to the ongoing strike.

"Work at the seaport has been completely disrupted for almost three days now," Hamada Kamel, head of the port's independent workers' syndicate, said.

Workers holding temporary contracts have staged several strikes since October to demand employment contracts with DP World. The dispute escalated when DP World management decided at the end of last year to end its service contract with Platinum Maritime Services, thus ending its temporary contracts with the subcontractor's employees.

Egypt's Red Sea Port Authority had earlier announced that it had reached an agreement with DP World to employ almost 1200 workers of various subcontracting companies that had served the seaport in cooperation with DP World. The proposal, however, was rejected by the workers' independent syndicate.

"DP World promised to appoint 50 workers per year since 2010, but the management never fulfilled its promises and we're still on temporary contracts," Mostafa Ali, labour leader and Platinum Maritime Services employee, told Ahram Online.

"DP World's management of the port is a failure. They are failing in all of the seaports under their management – in the Port of Aden in Yemen and Sydney in Australia," Ali said.

He added: "We demand that the Ain Sokhna Port come back under the management of the Red Sea Port Authority. This will resolve all the labour problems. Workers' rights and human dignity were respected when the port was under government management. Port revenues were also much higher."

After ending its contract with Platinum Maritime Services, the Dubai-based company decided to hire six new subcontractors to manage container-handling, storage, and catering and cleaning services.

One DP World official, speaking anonymously, described workers' demands as "unreasonable."

"We already negotiated fair terms with the Red Sea Port Authority, promising them that temporary workers would be gradually appointed," the DP official told Ahram Online. "They have no legitimate reason to strike."

DP World management, meanwhile, has denied reports that operations at the port have been adversely impacted by the ongoing labour dispute.

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