More than 2,000 workers at the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in the Nile Delta City of Mahalla initiated a partial strike on Tuesday, and warned of a comprehensive strike starting on Wednesday which could potentially involve all of the company’s factories and nearly 17,000 workers.
The strike has affected five factories within the state-owned company, accounting for approximately one fifth of its productive capacity. Workers at the company, which is Egypt’s largest textile mill, are demanding the payment of overdue bonuses and augmented food allowances in light of increasing inflation rates and the recent implementation of austerity measures.
They announced that they will launch a comprehensive strike across all of the company’s Mahalla factories within two days if their demands are not met.
One of the striking workers, who wished to remain anonymous, told Mada Masr that the strike began in a factory manufacturing bed sheets, which is primarily operated by female workers.
They said, “We are all demanding that our incomes be augmented in line with the constantly rising cost of living, and that our basic wages be increased so that we are able to cope with the new austerity policies.”
Despite being a state-owned company, Misr Spinning and Weaving Company workers are not granted the national monthly minimum wage of LE1,200 allocated to public sector employees.
On average, their total wages range between LE900 per month for recently employed workers, to approximately LE3,000 for the most senior manual workers.
“Even this monthly minimum wage is insufficient to provide for workers and their families these days. A minimum basic monthly wage of LE1,500, in addition to bonuses, would be a good starting point so that workers can make ends meet” the worker lamented.
The strikers are demanding the payment of an overdue 10 percent annual “social bonus,” authorized by the Finance Ministry in 2015, calculated based on a workers basic wage.
They are also lobbying for their daily food allowance to be increased from LE7 to LE10, and for monthly bonuses of LE220 to be included in basic wage calculations, rather than being issued separately as a bonus payment. The worker said that those on strike believe this is in keeping with rising prices, proposing a higher allowance of LE20.
Other demands raised include the re-operation of several stalled factories and production lines within the company, the reinstatement of punitively sacked workers and the recall of the local trade union committee.
The company’s employees have been attempting to recall the union committee and replace it with an independent union since December 2006.
According to the textile worker, “This union doesn’t represent us. It represents the company’s management. It always aligns itself with the management’s policies, and always follows the stances adopted by the Textile Holding Company.”
The Textile Holding Company is the state’s umbrella company, responsible for administering 32 affiliated textile companies nationwide.
The independent Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services issued a statement on Tuesday calling on security forces not to take punitive actions against Mahalla’s textile workers for exercising their constitutional right to strike, stipulated in Constitutional Article 15. In recent months strikes at several other companies have been met with a security crackdown.
*Correction: An earlier version of this article said workers warned of strikes at factories across the country. It has been amended to reflect that the strikes will take place at the company’s factories in Mahalla.