Workers in Egypt's state-owned business strike for 2nd day

Waad Ahmed , Tuesday 11 Feb 2014

Thousands of workers state-owned factories are protesting for a minimum wage

Mahalla Textile
Mahalla Textile's workers strike (Photo: AL-Ahram)

Egypt’s public business sector workers entered their second consecutive day of strikes on Tuesday to demand an LE1,200 minimum wage, according to state-owned Al-Ahram.

The Mahalla Weaving and Textile Company, Egypt’s biggest public textile company, is at the forefront of the recent strikes, where more than 10,000 workers in the morning shift and 2,000 in the night shift are striking.

The Mahalla strike also demands delayed payments for the overdue installments of their yearly bonuses and the dismissal of Fouad Abdel-Alim, the head of the Holding Company for Weaving and Spinning, which oversees all public sector textile firms.

Workers at Zefteh Textile, Tanta Spinning and the Nile public company for roads and flyovers are also striking.

Mahlla Textile workers were the first demonstrators calling for setting national minimum wage at LE1,200 in 2008 in one of the largest anti-regime protest before former president Hosni Mubarak was deposed in 2011, but they never received the wage.

A minimum wage scheme for public employees was announced in January and was meant for administrative personnel in the public sector who account for about 4.2 million employees.

Around 1.5 million employees of nine holding companies and 50 economic authorities make up the "business sector" entities that are regulated under law 203 in 1991.

According to that law, the budgets of companies and authorities in the "business sector" are not included in the state budget, although they are technically state-owned.

“State-owned entities that are economically independent of the [government's budget] such as all business sector companies and other economic authorities are not part of the minimum wage scheme,” Sahar Othman, deputy head of Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), told Ahram Online.

The National Council for Wages will be meeting sometime next week to discuss the possibility of implementing the minimum wage scheme in the business sector, ETUF head Gebali El-Merghany said.

“The wage structure at Telecom Egypt is generally satisfactory and no one is paid less than LE1,200 anyways. We do need a maximum wage limit though,” Mohamed Helmy, member of the workers syndicate for state-owned Telecom Egypt, told Ahram Online.

This is not the case in all of the business sector companies and entities.

Moemen Magdy, a postal worker, told Ahram Online that workers recently were unsuccessful in an attempts to meet the management to demand minimum wage.

Magdy added that workers at the postal authority have been implicitly threatened to face legal penalties if they planned strikes.

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