After the Dock Workers and the Public Transportation Workers
IFFCO Workers Face Court After the Management, Security and The General Union United Against Them
27 workers in IFFCO for food industries in Suez will stand trial by the end of January to hear their sentencing in the proceeds of case number 2932 for the year 2016. They are accused of calling for a strike, abstaining from work, vandalism and destroying company property; they are the same accusations that had been previously directed towards the dock workers and the public transportation workers.
The incidents of the case go back to the workers, 600 in total, demanding that the management keep in mind the increase in prices after the floatation of the pound and approve a raise that is equivalent to the rise in prices. After correspondents and demands, the Indian owner of the company sent 800000 pounds to be distributed to the workers as a monthly rise and a way of raising wages; a demand the workers had since the union signed the collective labour agreement with the management in 2013. The workers demanded a restructuring of the wages that range between 1200 and 2000 pounds while in the upper management it ranges between 30000 to 80000 pounds. The administration had announced its intention not to renew the labour agreement between it and the workers in which the top most article was concerning wages, after the workers demanded a renegotiation of the agreement especially the article on wages. The administration refused to renegotiate based on a decision by the work force ministry declaring renegotiating collective labour agreements that are still valid and are not three years old. This contradicts article 163 of the labour law that stipulates that collective labour agreements that are still valid may be renegotiated if new circumstances that necessitates its amendment. When the workers found out about the company’s intention not to renew the agreement they went on strike and it was actually renewed in May 2015. Last December the CEO held a meeting with the workers and told them that the rise will be distributed to workers alone before going back to announce that it will be distributed to a ratio of 15% to managers and 20% of the raise to workers. The workers refused because it meant that more than 80% of the actual amount will go to the managers leaving only 20% to the workers. The workers rejected this unfair way of distribution because it meant that they will get a sum not exceeding 240 to 600 pounds to each worker while each manager will get a raise of between 5000 and 10000 pounds each in lieu of their high salaries. The workers suggested that each person should get an equal amount of 1300 pounds whether they are a manager or a worker but the administration refused this suggestion and insisted on the its method of distributing the raise. This led the workers to demand a fair distribution of the raise.
Mohamed Said, the head of the union says that the general security forces called him and asked him to go them on December 27. He actually went to the national security headquarters where he was interrogated about the details of his colleagues’ strike. They then asked him to end the strike or return to the national security headquarters if he fails. Said went to the company after the threats he claimed he received and described the threats he faced. The workers replied by announcing that they continue their strike until their demands are met. In the next morning the head of police in Suez came to the company along with employees from the labour office and listened to the workers’ demands and asserted that their demands are just. He filed a report asserting that the workers’ only demand was a fair distribution of raises to all workers and managers of the company. After the head of police reviewed the report of the labor office he asked the CEO to distribute the raise fairly but the CEO refused what the labour office has stipulated, again. The head of police informed the workers that they are not indicted or wanted and allowed the members of the union to leave the company.
Mohamed Said, the head of the union, continues that as soon as the members of the union left the headquarters of the company, the company lawyers filed police reports against 15 workers including 9 union members. On the evening of December 29, police forces broke into the homes of Mohamed Said, the head of the union and its secretary general Ahmed Bakr and four other workers. On January 2, the company was broken into by security forces and they arrested 13workers and presented them to the prosecution. The prosecution decreed the release of the workers on the same day on a bail of 200 pounds each and referred 27 workers to court on charges of calling for a strike, abstaining from work and vandalizing the company premises. The court of felonies in Attaka reviewed the case and decided to release the 3 workers in custody on a bail of 500 pounds each and retaining the case for a sentencing of all the 27 accused workers on January 29.
As usual, the Egyptian General Federation of Labour Unions came into the case despite the ministry of Labour’s declaration that the workers are not guilty and that the clear stubbornness of the management and the reason for the strike and that the workers’ demands of an equal raise and the application of the articles of the agreement that the management signed with them are legitimate rights.
The governmental union intentionally used what happened in the war it launches against truly independent unions that were able to negotiate the demands of its workers and fulfill their interests and preform the real role of a union, unknown to the Egyptian General Federation. The governmental federation sent a letter to the management of the company informing them that the union in the company is illegitimate due to their claim that it was not established according to law and is not one of its unions. The management used the letter to destroy the union after it prosecuted the union members. It also stopped the deduction of the union membership from workers without informing the workers who are the only ones who have the right to approve or reject the deduction. It also started an organized campaign against the union members accusing them of misguiding the workers and collecting their membership funds. They also stirred the workers against their colleagues in the union who are hunted, live without a shelter and certainly without work leaving whole families behind them who have committed no crime except that they dared establish a real union that demands their rights.
The Center for Trade Union & Workers' Services (CTUWS) announces its full support of IFFECO workers and wants to point out the dangers that are indicated by what happened to IFFECO workers and how the management dealt with the union and its transgression over the workers’ right to join or leave a union. Consequently it stopped the union membership fee deductions without permission from the workers who have the right to this. CTUWS would like to point out that the trial of the workers for preforming their legitimate right to strike is a regression from the workers’ rights as stipulated by the Egyptian constitution and the agreements and conventions. The consecutive facts refer to the fact that someone is pushing towards presenting the workers to the investor as a grant and an additional advantages of investment such as tax and customs exemptions and works on helping investors evade their legal obligations towards the Egyptian workers.
Finally the Center for Trade Union & Workers' Services (CTUWS) would like to assert the required social stability will only take place by abiding by the legislations, implementing the constitution and championing the social justice that is missed. What is happening with IFFECO workers in Suez is only a repetition of what has happened to the dock workers and the public transportation workers. This asserts that the Egyptian state has declared war on union freedoms ignoring all international conventions and agreements and before them, the Egyptian constitution.
The Center for Trade Union & Workers' Services
January 16, 2017