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Labor groups condemn crackdown on strikes in Port Said and Ain Sokhna
Courtesy: Reuters


Over the past three days, a host of trade unions and labor rights organizations have denounced what they describe as heavy-handed security crackdowns on workers’ strikes, along with the arrests of strike leaders, in the cities of Ain Sokhna and Port Said.


Riot police and troops from the Third Army fired teargas canisters amongst dock workers to disperse their strike on Tuesday morning in the Red Sea port of Ain Sokhna. A number of workers were injured in this crackdown and at least one worker, Hassan al-Fayoumy, was reportedly arrested.


Security forces removed hundreds of strikers from within the port, who later staged a protest outside the gates demanding re-entry and the fulfilment of contractual agreements.


Nearly 800 workers from the Platinum Maritime Services Company have been protesting at the Ain Sokhna Port since Sunday over unmet contractual terms, which had been agreed upon in light of an earlier strike in February 2013. Due to the failure of the company to uphold agreements between labor and management at the port, workers escalated their protest to a work stoppage on Monday and refused to service two ships that had docked there.


Following two days of unsuccessful negotiations with protesting workers inside the port, security forces are reported to have serviced and released the two ships from the port on Tuesday.


In a separate incident, three protesting workers from the Egyptian Propylene and Polypropylene Company in Port Said were arrested late on Saturday while filing strike notices at their local police station in this northern Suez Canal city.


The three unionists — Kamal Arafat, Mohamed Ibrahim and Mohamed al-Sayed — were planning to escalate their protest to a strike on Monday and, abiding by official labor regulations, had sought to inform the authorities at the Zohour Police Station of their planned work-stoppage.


However, prior to their arrival at the police station, company administrators had filed charges against the workers on the basis of instigating strikes and halting production.


The police station is detaining them for four days pending prosecutors’ investigations.


Despite the arrests, co-workers launched their strike on Monday as planned.


The independent Center for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS) issued a press statement on Monday denouncing the harassment of trade unionists, labor organizers and strike leaders. The statement mentioned that such actions on the part of the security apparatus constitutes a violation of basic labor rights and freedoms.


The CTUWS also denounced attempts by employers and state officials to brand striking workers as politicized agents manipulated “by the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist groups.”


On Tuesday, the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU) issued a statement condemning the security responses against workers of both the Egyptian Propylene and Polypropylene Company and the Platinum Maritime Services Company.


EFITU criticized “the government’s repressive measures against workers” and its “violation of international labor conventions, to which Egypt is a state party.” The statement questioned the allegiances and neutrality of Egypt’s security forces, claiming that these troops had sided with employers despite their disregard of previous agreements with workers at both companies.


The EFITU statement claimed that security forces are supporting the policies of well-connected employers regardless of the injustices involved, and are repeatedly moving to crush industrial actions at the request of such employers.


The administrators of the Platinum Maritime Services Company issued statements to state-owned media on Tuesday, claiming that the workers’ strike resulted in a complete paralysis of the Ain Sokhna Port, which has harmed the national economy and has also incurred several million pounds worth of lost revenue.


Administrators of the Egyptian Propylene and Polypropylene Company could not be reached for comment.