Muhammad Hardan, deputy president of the Independent Union of Workers in the Cairo Water Company, spoke to MENA Solidarity on Facebook after the overthrow of Morsi, explaining why he and other trade unionists had joined the revolt against the Muslim Brotherhood.
“We didn’t even have to issue a call from the union for participation in the protests, as everyone who worked for the company was ready to go into the streets of their own accord because of the oppression they had suffered during the recent period. The law on trade union freedoms has not been brought in, trade unionists have been oppressed and we’ve seen corruption spreading even more than under the old regime. Wages have been cut, and anyone attempting to demand their rights has been victimised. Prices keep rising, and wages don’t keep keep up, but demonstrations have been criminalised and sit-ins are broken up by force. Meanwhile factories and companies are closing down. Workers’ rights have been ignored, even in the constitution.
When we demanded social justice, this was described as “selfish”. Those supposedly representing workers in parliament took no interest in their rights.
I witnessed some of this repression first hand, such as the smashing of the sit-in at Alexandria Cement using police dogs. I met workers from Beheira Joint Stock Company who hadn’t been paid their wages for 8 months. The petroleum companies sacked large numbers of workers: my colleague in the union didn’t get the money he was owed for 6 months. I was myself referred for investigation because I spoke to the national press about the demands of the Water Company workers. Others of my trade unionist colleagues have been transferred to different workplaces or denied work appropriate to their level of qualifications. A colleague of mine from the Alexandria Water Company was kidnapped and tortured because he took part in a protest. Another colleague from the Water Company was injured after being attacked and beaten up.
We’ve been very active in campaigning against water privatisation, but the Brotherhood is in favour. The Deputy General Guide of the Brotherhood, Khairat al-Shater has called for privatisation.
The army intervention stopped terrorist groups, who were prepared to use weapons against us and against our revolution from shedding citizens’ blood.
Morsi relied a great deal on the law criminalising strikes, which was enacted in 2012, though the draft was proposed in 2011. He waged war on the trade unions.
In the coming period, the workers’ movement will be demanding that workers are represented in parliament and calling on their representatives to pass a law on trade union freedoms. They will tell the government that its first priority must be to implement social justice and not to ignore workers’ demands.
If the next president refuses to meet our demands, we will rebel again. There is no other solution. Those who have tasted freedom will not be slaves again. The revolution will continue until its demands are met, no matter who sits in the presidential palace. We will never abandon the revolution and we will never give in.”
What you can do: