13 August 2013
Egypt: Appeal for solidarity after steel workers arrested by army
Posted on August 12, 2013
We reject the army’s attack on Suez Steel workers and demand their immediate release
Original Arabic here – picture via RevSoc.me on Facebook
Nearly a month and a half has passed since the fall of Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from power, thanks to the action of the masses who did not feel any difference between the policies of the Brotherhood and those of Mubarak. Both opposed the masses and their demands for bread, freedom and social justice. Despite the downfall of Mubarak, Tantawi and Morsi in successive revolutionary waves beginning on 25 January and finishing on 30 June, Minister of Defence General Abd-al-Fattah al-Sisi, President Adli Mansour and Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi have not learnt their lesson. Instead, they divert the masses and make the “war on terrorism” a pretext for dropping demands for social justice during the transitional period.
Striking workers have been in the front ranks of the struggle by the masses since the strike in Mahalla in 2006. It was they who threw down Mubarak, and after him Tantawi and Morsi who saw during his period in office the largest proportion of workers’ strikes to demand their rights. Yet the new government of Mansour and Beblawi is dealing with strikers with the same repressive policies, and today arrested two of the leaders of the Suez Steel workers’ strike (Amr Yusif and Abd-al-Ra’uf, with the knowledge of the police, while the armed forces surrounded the factory.
The origins of the dispute go back to the signing of a collective agreement between the company and the workforce in February 2012, in the wake of workers’ protests. The agreement included provisions to pay workers a profit-sharing bonus, and agreed a pay structure, health care and bonuses. The dispute is about the implementation of a number of provisions in the agreement, most importantly the profit-sharing bonus, as the owner claims that the company is making a loss and that he owes money to a number of banks. When the workers asked at a Ramadan breakfast recently for other bonus payments in place of the profit-sharing bonus, he just kept on talking about his losses. The workers countered by saying that the company has increased its factories to four units, and that it also donated 3 million Egyptian pounds towards paying off the Egyptian national debt.
Workers were surprised when, the following day, 12 of their colleagues had been dismissed. After that, discussion and negotiation took another form, and the workers presented their demands in full, but management refused to answer any of them, saying they must get back to work and then negotiations could begin. The workers refused, and continued their strike for the second day, when the police arrested two of the workers and the army surrounded the factory.
The recent rise in workers’ strikes and protests shows that the Egyptian revolution is not over yet, and that the struggle of the working class will continue until the revolution’s demands are met. The organisations signing this statement confirm their support for all workers’ strikes, and their adoption of workers’ legitimate demands. We call on workers’ organisations, political groups and trade union leaders in other workplaces to show solidarity with their colleagues at Suez Steel and to confront the regime’s attacks on workers, which will move tomorrow to Tenth of Ramadan, Alexandria and Port Sa’id.
We also condemn the siege of the workers’ sit-in at the factory, and the arrest of strikers, and demand that Minister of Labour Kamal Abu Aita swiftly deals with the situation. We demand the immediate release of the arrested workers, the army’s withdrawal from the factory and that workers’ demands are met.
The Revolutionary Socialists
Hisham Mubarak Law Centre
The Campaign for Workers’ Demands
Platinum Maritime Services Workers (Red Sea Ports)
The Independent Union of Public Transport Workers
The Independent Union of Cairo Airport Workers
The Textile Workers League
The Mahalla Workers’ League
The Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights
The Suez Seamen’s League
What you can do:
- Rush messages of protest to General Abd-al-Fattah al-Sisi, Commander in Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, demanding the immediate release of the two arrested workers. Email General al-Sisi here firstname.lastname@example.org copy in Kamal Abu Aita, Minister of Labour (email@example.com) and the Egyptian Ambassador to the UK (firstname.lastname@example.org) or your country.
- Send messages of solidarity to the Suez Steel workers via email@example.com or by our Facebook page, or leave a comment under this article