Ghazl el-Mahalla Textile Workers Slam Their Union Officials
The General Union for Textile Workers should impeach its local branch at Ghazl el-Mahalla Textile company (which stood against the December strike) by 15 February or at least 13,000 workers will resign en masse from the government-dominated union body, a delegation from the factory told the General Union officials in Cairo on Monday.
The workers arrived at the General Union’s HQ in Shoubra el-Mazallat around 11am, in two buses carrying roughly 200 workers. They were met by the head of the General Union, Sa’eed el-Gohari, who claimed he had not been notified of the meeting and that he heard of it from a journalist a couple of days ago.
I was told by the workers that originally they were planning to come in five bus loads, but State Security had embarked on a vicious intimidation campaign, that included summoning labor activists to the SS offices in Mahalla, directing threats against them and their families.
Before they went into the conference hall, there were lots of humming, talking, angry comments, few shouts, and some union officials tried to discredit the strikers as “liars,” only to be met with a flood of accusations from the workers about the corruption of the union. “You did not stand by us when we were striking,” shouted the workers back at Seddiq Siyam, the head of the Ghazl el-Mahalla Textile Union Committee. “You left us all alone. You do not represent us. You are a fraud.”
In a stormy meeting, the workers confronted both their General Union and Factory Union Committee officials. They accused the union bureaucracy of not caring about their well being, they accused the local branch of corruption, siding with the management during the strike, as well as winning their seats by security vote-rigging.
They handed in a petition, signed by roughly 13,000 workers demanding the dissolution of the union, and new elections.
The General Union officials took it. Initially, they refused to give the workers an ultimatum for when they’ll reply back to their demands… The workers decided to give them only till the 15 Feb. If the union is not dissolved, then the petition signatories will resign from the union, stop paying their membership fees, and launch an independent labor union, for the first time in the country’s history since 1957.
Although all Union officials who sat on the podium were NDP members… when asked, el-Gohari avoided answering the question, saying trade unionism had nothing to do with political parties and that he served all workers alike.
After several attempts to dodge requests for knowing when he is gonna reply back to the workers, Gohari said the General Union was to have an emergency meeting on 15 Feb.
The head of the union took the petitions, so as to count them. Later, the union officials claimed the signatures were invalid, so the workers, angrily stormed out of the General Union, by 4:30pm, and went to the Menyet el-Serg police station, and filed a report against the Union, in a move aiming to prove legally that they had handed the petitions.
Before they stormed out, the workers spent hours leveling accusations against their union officials… and detailing the tough working conditions they operate under, including lack of medical treatment for work injuries, the ultra-low salaries they receive. (I met workers who worked for the company for 11 years, and their basic salary was LE206. Another one worked for 23 years, and his salary is LE310!!!)
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