One of the leaders of the Mahalla strike, Kamal Fayoumi, talks about the workers’ demands in an interview on 17 July.
Video transcript below
We are now in Misr Spinning in Mahalla. We had our legitimate demands before the revolution. We hoped these demands would be met after the revolution. Unfortunately the Military Council made promises that they would meet our demands but they didn’t do this. We went on strike five days after the fall of Mubarak and we managed to kick out Fouad Hasaan who represented Mubarak in the company. We expected that he would be put on trial for the crimes he committed when he was our boss, and for causing the company to make losses of 370 million pounds over two years. But to our surprise about a month ago the Military Council appointed Fouad Hasaan to head the public-sector wide Holding Company for Textiles. This is despite everything he did here. Of course he’ll follow the same policies.
His behaviour pushed the workers into strike action against him, and then he’ll accuse them of ‘stopping production’. The Mahalla workers have the right to a profit-sharing bonus worth 135 days pay which is usually distributed a month and a half before Ramadan. Fouad Hasaan delayed the bonus to spark a strike. So the Mahalla workers did organise a strike. And their first demand was the resignation of Fouad Hasaan and his prosecution. They are demanding back the bonuses and benefits that Fouad Hasaan and the Military Council had tried to take away.
The most important of these is the payment of a profit-sharing bonus of six and a half months. This wouldn’t be a new gain for the workers as we already had a similar bonus of four and a half months and then we were due a month and a month and a half bonus on top of that which makes 6 and a half months in total.
We’re demanding a retirement bonus of two months pay for every year worked.
This is what most companies offer, such as the postal service and the public transport authority. We are saying we want two months for every year worked and no upper limit. We made an agreement to increase bonuses by around 220 pounds. This increase should be added to the old bonus, along with the social allowance and the shift allowance. But they said this increase could not be added to the allowances. These are our basic demands. They keep telling us that there is no money
The important thing is that the workers win all their rights.
There are other important demands and these are to start the factory working again properly, and to clear out corruption. The corrupt people working here included a lot of consultants who were brought from abroad. There are only one or two left now. We want them to resign so that we can rebuild the company from within.
We are continuing in our strike until all our demands are met. The workers are all determined to win these demands and to realise the principle of social justice which appeared even before the revolution.
We are demanding the implementation of the minimum and maximum wage as soon as possible, as this is an issue we fought over from before the revolution. This is a general demand of all the workers and we are continuing our strike until all our demands are met.
[Have there been any attempts at sabotage or vandalism during the strike?]
What happened was that they said that the workers are going on strike to bring down Mohammed Morsi. Of course we are not targeting Morsi because he became president. We want our demands to be met. And our demands won’t be met until we have a strong government which can kick out corruption and appoint people who can put the textile industry back on its feet again. Textiles used to account for a third of Egypt’s national income. So our strike and the workers’ demands are aimed at getting the president to return Mahalla to its former strength so that it can once again account for a third of national income.
[We heard that there were negotiations but that they didn’t meet workers’ demands.
Are the workers happy about this?]
The company’s main negotiator was meant to meet workers’ representatives today.
But he was afraid to clash with the workers because he can’t take any decisions and because the negotiator, Ahmed Maher is a negative person, and so he didn’t talk to us today. However the secretary to the local governor, a general called Mostafa Badr, told us he was coming with 23 million pounds to give us the month and a half bonus.
Of course that month and a half bonus is an issue which is over.
We now have other demands, the most important of which is the six and halfmonth bonus and the two months for the retirement bonus. He said ‘I’ll take those demand to the governor, and he’ll take them to the Military Council, and then to the president, Mohammed Morsi’. We’re waiting for an answer tomorrow. And we’ll continue in our strike until these demands are met.
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