National Security threatens to arrest workers on strike

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Over a period of four days, workers at the Ceramica Granito Factory in el-Sadat City, Monufia Governorate, continued their sit-in. To protect the factory owner who was formerly the minister of industry, the National Security Agency threatened to say that the workers belonged to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood if they did not break up their picket.

Last Thursday, more than 1,300 workers of the Horizon for Investment & Industrial Development company, publicly known as Ceramica Granito, started an open sit-in to protest their financial and practical conditions at the company such as their holidays, rest days, annual profits, and periodic bonuses. The company’s board of directors is chaired by Mukhtar Khattab, the former Minister of Industry in Atef Ebaid’s government.

According to the sources, and for the last consecutive four years, the company had stopped cashing the workers’ profits due to them by law claiming that it did not gain any profits during that period contrary to the reality, according to the picketers. The sources stated that the company, which is owned by a number of banks and investors, was giving the workers what amounts to four months’ worth of pay per annum as their share of the annual profits of the company. The new management, however, headed by the former Minister of Industry, who has broad government influence, refused to pay these profits under the pretext that the company was suffering losses since then. The workers deny that statement and assert that the business, production, and sales never stopped and that there were no indicators of such losses.

The workers told of the illegal work conditions that they are forced to work under like working through official holidays and feasts for free and without pay together with imposing financial sanctions and deductions on whoever refuses to work under such illegal circumstances. These punishments often took the form of deducting five days of the workers’ pay for every day of the official holidays he/she refuses to work. The workers submitted dozens of complaints to the concerned government entities over the past months among which were complaints to both the Ministry of Manpower and Immigration and the Labour Bureau among others.

The Ministry of Manpower and Immigration forged an agreement between the workers’ representatives and the company management at the end of last year. The agreement bound the management to give the first shift workers a rest day after every five days of work, whereas the second and third shift workers were given two days, one of which was from the accrued annual leave. Moreover, the shifts were to be rotated and the total annual leave for all workers was to amount to 34 days in addition to six days of unscheduled leave, whereas seven days of unscheduled leave were approved by the Ministerial Decree concerning difficult, dangerous, or health hazardous works. The management, however, abstained from abiding with the agreement later on.

The workers explained that they are also protesting against the Minister of Public Business Sector’s decision to stop cashing the monthly profits which amount to EGP 1,000 to be added to the salary of EGP 1,300 of the workers who spent more than 20 years working for the company. Lately, the company was also intransigent with them and refused to pay them July’s salary before the holidays of Eid al-Adha which deprived them of the ability to celebrate the feast.

Private sources from within the sit-in told Egypt Watch that the National Security Administration in Monufia Governorate summoned 11 of the picketing workers and threatened to arrest them and to fabricate political prosecutions of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood as a method to intimidate them into dispersing their sit-in. According to the sources, these threats were made in support of the former minister who has strong ties with al-Sisi’s regime.

Since Abdel Fattah al-Sisi assumed the presidency in 2014, a set of laws were passed incriminating protests and demonstrations to make the workers and protesters liable to be subjected to arrest by the National Security Service.