The full story of the sit-in to stop the sale of the Delta Fertiliser Company

Like other factory and worker crises, the case of the Delta Fertiliser Company in Dakahlia Governorate, known as Talkha Fertiliser Company, exploded after the government and the governor decided to sell the company’s land for an investment project.

The news of the sale of the factory land in Dakahlia and its transfer to the Suez Governorate or merging it with another company prompted thousands of workers working for the company to sit-in and demonstrate in an escalation that has continued for a week.

The workers of the Delta Company for Fertilisers and Chemical Industries continued their sit-in, declaring their rejection of any attempts to sell the factory or move it to any other place, demanding the development plan that had been previously announced by the Minister of Business Sector. The 2,700 workers explained that the governor of Dakahlia submitted to the Council of Ministers a proposal to move the fertiliser plant from its location to the Suez Governorate, which the workers rejected.

They said that moving the factory was a prelude to closing it and laying off thousands of workers, as happened in similar incidents, in order to exploit the area of ​​the factory and adjacent areas to establish an investment project. For their part, officials of the Holding Company for Chemical Industries revealed, in press statements, that if the factory is transferred from Dakahlia to another governorate, this will require measures related to workers.

They added that for the workers numbering about 2,700, there will be alternatives to deal with them, by proposing a way to settle the pension of those who do not want to move. According to officials, it is possible to merge the Delta Company for Fertilisers with Al Nasr Fertilisers, especially in light of the Delta Company’s debts and losses.

Angry workers

The government claims that the Delta Fertiliser Company suffers from heavy losses that exceeded half of its capital and was subject to closure. Still, the extraordinary general assembly decided to continue working with it while remedying the financial and technical conditions. The government intends to merge the company with the Nasr Fertiliser Company, which works in the production of ammonia, ammonia sulfate, nitric acid, and sulfuric acid. However, the latter also suffers from large losses.

The Nasr Company for Fertilisers was recently controlled by the Ministry of Military Production, which seeks to transform the company into a special free zone, which means that the Delta Company will suffer the same fate that the workers reject. During the sit-in and chants, the Delta Company workers called for their rescue, and the rescue of their factory, which they said directly supported the Egyptian farmer, and the late President Sadat called him the genie.

They explained that they had collected signatures from most of the governorate parliament members, who demand the continuation of the factory’s work, as it has 2,700 direct workers and more than 10,000 indirect workers from drivers, sales, and others. They emphasised that the factory does not achieve any losses because it supports the farmer with more than EGP 1,000 per ton of fertiliser, and it sells fertilisers at less than their market price to the farmer to continue agricultural production and maintain the stability of crop prices.

The workers revealed that the factory had been almost stopped for two months, confirming that they had received promises of development, but to no avail, with the presence of parties seeking to sabotage and lose the factory until it was converted into housing projects. The workers wondered about the beneficiary of the company’s destruction and layoffs and how they would raise their children, although they are still young, as the company’s workers’ average age ranged between 35 and 45 years. They emphasised the existence of ambitions in the land area on which the factories were located and that the government should have considered developing it, not destroying it.

Business sector losses

For his part, Imad Hamdy, head of the General Chemical Syndicate, said that workers at the Delta Fertiliser Company were surprised to be informed that, starting next week, the company will be transferred from its current headquarters. He added in a televised statement that the company had obtained environmental compatibility until 2022, and they were surprised that the Dakahlia Governorate wanted to transfer the company outside the governorate on the grounds of environmental pollution.

Activists circulated a video clip during the workers’ sit-in and demonstrations showing a fertiliser company worker crying due to the decision to close their factory, which sparked a wave of anger and sympathy with the workers. Government companies and factories record huge losses of billions of Egyptian pounds every year.

Most of the losses are concentrated on the spinning, iron, and steel sector, as the Holding Company for Spinning and Weaving announced losses of EGP 2.9 billion at the end of the fiscal year 2018-2019. Instead of developing companies and addressing the deficiencies, the government resorts to privatising companies and selling them to investors, which results in thousands of layoffs and job losses.