Friday, December 29, 2006

Egypt: Workers Revolt

LABOUR-EGYPT: Workers' Revolt Pays Off by Emad Mekay. December 29, 2006 IPS

MAHALA EL-KOBRA, Egypt, Dec 14 (IPS) - More than 20,000 Egyptian textile workers have scored a rare win over plans to privatise their publicly-owned company, with a massive strike that forced the company's management and the pro-free market government to back down. Union leaders say the triumph has breathed life into the country's ailing labour movement, weakened by repeated hits from the government of President Hosni Mubarak. The last strike in this city was in 1988.

Workers at the al-Mahala Textile Company (Ghazl al-Mahala) in the country's northwest demonstrated for five days starting last weekend and occupied several factories to protest a decision by the company's chairman Mahmoud el-Gebaly to withhold bonus payments, as promised earlier by the government. Nearly a quarter of the strikers were women. Management had said the decision was a way to lower expenses, even though the original promise was to give workers a meagre bonus of 200 Egyptian pounds per year -- about 35 dollars.

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