Bosses are trying to smash a strike by thousands of workers in Egypt’s biggest textile factory in Mahalla al-Kubra by blocking payment for work they have already done. But on Wednesday the strikers were standing firm and refusing to give in.
The strike began last week among women workers and then spread to involve large sections of male workers at the company that employs 14,000 people.
Workers receive their salaries starting on the 25th of each month. But management has withheld the pay workers are owed from before they struck. One worker said, “Instead of responding to our legitimate requests, the company deprives us of our salaries and uses the weapon of starvation as if we were in Gaza.”
He added, “A state of extreme dissatisfaction prevails among the workers due to their desperate need for money, especially with the approaching month of Ramadan.
“Our battle is the battle of all those working in the business sector, and we can only win if other companies join us, as the oil company did in Assiut.”
Workers at the oils and detergents company in the city of Assiut are striking for the same pay rise as the Mahalla workers.
Egypt’s repressive president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi recently announced a rise in the minimum wage for state workers to 6,000 Egyptian pounds—£150—a month. Many workers are paid less than this and are demanding they receive at least this pay.
About 400 temporary workers at Assiut are also demanding permanent jobs after they spent ten years with the company without being hired.
The Revolutionary Socialists in Egypt say, “The Mahalla strike clearly announces that Egypt’s workers reject the current starvation policies. If these policies have been passed by the sword of repression during the past period, then remaining silent about them is no longer possible.
“We declare our full solidarity with the movement and demands of the brave Mahalla textile workers and we reject the policy of oppression and terrorism against them.
“We call on all Egyptian political, trade union and student forces to stand in solidarity with them until their legitimate demands are achieved.
“The movement also emphasises that the crisis of increasing wages for workers and employees living below the poverty line is not due to the lack of financial resources. Rather, it’s because these resources are in the wrong hands.
“Huge salaries are paid to senior state employees in the presidential office, governors, judges, army and police officers, and advisors to government and public bodies.
“A maximum limit must be set for the wages of these elites to provide the financial resources necessary to set a minimum wage of ten thousand pounds—£250—a month.”
Inflation in Egypt—home to over 109 million people—is close to 40 percent, plunging many Egyptians near or under the poverty line.
Mahalla was the detonator of a major wave of strikes which fed into the eruption of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Workers across the country will be watching to see if again it can give a lead to resistance.
Ruling classes everywhere will fear economic and political revolt against imperialism and the Arab regimes’ rulers.
- Send your solidarity to Mahalla workers via the Revolutionary Socialists. Go to https://revsoc.me/contact/
UAE’s £30 billion land grab in Egypt
The United Arab Emirates has just bought the right to develop land covering 171 million square metres in the Egyptian city of Ras el Hekma on the Mediterranean Sea.
The £30 billion land grab, covering about the size of 3,500 football pitches, will primarily be used for a luxury resort.
The deal comes as Sisi is negotiating a huge loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The cash will make it easier to avoid some of the IMF’s demands for cuts and currency devaluation that would cause further economic turmoil and increase the possibility of workers’ strikes.
Sisi’s government says the Ras El Hekma project is a partnership between Egypt and large property developers rather than an outright sale. It is fearful of being seen to sell off Egyptian assets to foreign governments.
Sisi’s government ceded the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia in 2016, triggering mass protests.
Three months ago the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Ports Group grabbed a 30-year lease agreement with Egypt’s Red Sea Ports Authority to develop and run a major terminal at Egypt’s Safaga Sea Port. This £175 million investment over three years ushered in the first internationally operated port in Upper Egypt on the Red Sea. The UAE was then Egypt’s second-largest regional trading partner.