Monday, February 18, 2013

Egyptian Police Break Up Alexandria Cement Factory Workers' Strike

Police break up Alex cement factory labour strike, free detained managers

Ahram Online, Sunday 17 Feb 2013

Three-day sit-in by striking cement factory workers in Alexandria is broken up by police Sunday morning after negotiations fail to secure release of detained company officials

A sit-in by striking workers at the Portland Cement Company factory in Alexandria was broken up by Central Security Forces early Sunday morning, according to a press release by the Cairo-based Centre for Trade Unions and Workers' Services (CTUWS).

The CTUWS claims that the sit in, which began on Thursday with some 450 workers, was forcibly broken up leaving dozens of workers injured by police dogs and at least 100 arrested.

Company officials, for their part, say the striking workers were not company employees, but rather employees of subcontracting companies Anwarco and IBS, both of which work with Portland Cement.

"Striking workers trapped factory management, including women and foreign workers, inside the factory for three days," Medhat Stephanos, Vice Chairman and spokesman for Alexandria Portland Cement, told Ahram Online. "This wasn’t a strike, it was a hostage situation; a criminal action."

The CTUWS claims the workers, all of them hired on temporary contracts, had declared the strike with the aim of obtaining permanent contracts – along with pay raises and bonuses – promised them by the company last January. To this end, striking workers halted operations in the company’s cement-packing department, threatening to stop the factory’s furnaces on Sunday if their demands were ignored.

According to Stephanos, security forces forcefully intervened in the situation in response to pleas from employees detained by striking workers after weekend negotiations failed to secure their release.

On Friday morning, public prosecutors issued arrest warrants for striking workers and urged the release of detained company personnel, Al-Ahram’s Arabic-language news website reported.

According to official news agency MENA, police on Sunday arrested 87 people involved in the strike. Nasser El-Abd, head of security investigations in Alexandria, was quoted as saying that 18 of those arrested had been charged with resisting arrest and illegally detaining company personnel.

Dozens of workers are currently staging a protest vigil outside Alexandria’s security directorate to demand the release of their arrested colleagues.

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