This weekend 26 workers from Egypt’s Alexandria Shipyard are expected to find out the verdict in their military trial.
It is a significant moment for the whole of the country’s labour movement. The limited rights that people have in civilians courts don't apply in military ones.
International solidarity is very important, and can make a difference. Activists are appealing for people everywhere to join a day of action this Friday, 16 September.
The workers were arrested after staging a sit-in at the yard in May to call for payment of bonuses, permanent contracts for 36 temporary workers, and to allow workers to receive promised promotions.
Military police surrounded the workers and arrested 13 of them, together with a clerical worker.
Mohamed Awad, a lawyer from the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights who is representing the workers, says the shipyard was originally established as a state-owned facility in the 1970s, but the Ministry of Defence took over the factory in 2007.
This the supposed justification for civilian workers facing trial in a military court.
Egyptian socialist activist Hisham Fouad writes, "As military courts do not allow appeals, the only way to overturn the sentences would be seek a presidential pardon. The judges could sentence the defendants to up to three years in prison.
"Under pressure from the local and international solidarity campaign the shipyard allowed 600 workers to return to work in August. Immediately a fatal incident in one of the workshops showed how management’s neglect of health and safety procedures is putting workers’ lives at risk when 27-year old Mohammed Gad was killed by electrocution.
"He and his colleagues had spent long years demanding safety boots and occupational health and safety, but their complaints were ignored, and now his two young daughters are without a father.
"The case against the 26 workers has to be understood in the context of a widespread attack on workers by the military regime as it pursues a plan of counter-revolution aimed at reversing the gains of the 2011 Revolution through attacks on opposition political groups, students and youth movements. Terrorising workers also serves the goal of imposing austerity policies."
Leading trade unionists from the port cities of Portsmouth in Britain and Piraeus in Greece are backing the solidarity campaign.
Jon Woods, secretary of Portsmouth trades council said, “We have written a letter of protest to Egyptian President Sisi condemning the regime’s attacks on workers’ rights and calling for the release of the Alexandria Shipyard workers.
“We are encouraging our member unions to take part in the international solidarity action for the workers on 16 September.
"It is an outrage that our fellow workers in Alexandria have been put on trial for demanding their rights, and even worse, that this is taking place in a military court.”
Since the military took power in 2013 Egyptian workers’ rights have been severely attacked. But strikes and protests do still happen.
Please help spread the word and take action:
Sign up for Egypt Solidarity Initiative’s Thunderclap here:https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/46556-free-the-alex-shipyard-workers
- Send a message to President Sisi of Egypt calling on him to free the shipyard workers and end military trials for civilians. Write to: Office of the President Al Ittihadia Palace, Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt, Fax: +202 2 391 1441, Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @AlsisiOfficial
- For further resources go to egyptsolidarityinitiative.org