Workers on hunger strike in three locations across Egypt

An ongoing wave of hunger strikes in protest over working conditions is being staged at the Egyptian Iron and Steel Company in Helwan, among female employees of the Health Ministry in Monufiya, and by microbus and minibus drivers in Giza.

In the Nile Delta Governorate of Monufiya, six rural health workers — female social workers affiliated with the Ministry of Health — have been on hunger strike for the seventh consecutive day on Sunday. They are protesting at Sadat General Hospital, against what they describe as “punitive relocations.”

According to the privately owned ONA News Agency, they have been relocated far from the villages and towns in which they are currently employed. Several of them have claimed the decision to relocate them was made after they filed work-related complaints against their administration. They have not been given transportation allowances, accommodation, or compensation for such a move.

Eight employees commenced a hunger strike on Sunday December 14, but two called-off their protest on Saturday after their health began to drastically deteriorate. Health Ministry officials in Monufiya are reportedly not offering the hunger strikers any concessions.

In Giza, an estimated 50 microbus and minibus drivers commenced a hunger strike on Sunday at the Mounib bus terminal, in protest over increased fees imposed on them by governorate officials.

According to the Youm7 news portal, the newly imposed fees are the latest expenses drivers have to pay the governorate, and may reach LE300 ($US 42) per day. The drivers claim this is unrealistically high and would consume most of their incomes.

Giza Governor Ali Abdel Rahman told Youm7 that the Mounib-based drivers are unlicensed, and unauthorized to work from the bus terminal. The protesting drivers vowed to continue their hunger strikes until the governorate rescinds the fee, or substantially decreases it.

Meanwhile, at the state-owned Egyptian Iron and Steel Company in Southeast Cairo’s industrial district of Helwan, worker-activist Mohamed Omar embarked on his second day of hunger strike at the company headquarters.

Omar is protesting what he describes as “punitive measures” against him for promoting strikes and other industrial actions at the company over the past two months.

Omar commenced his hunger strike on Saturday at the legal affairs department of the company after the administration moved to cut his food allowance, and 30 percent of his bonuses.

Over the past few weeks, this hunger-striking worker was amongst the loudest voices demanding the dismissal of the Egyptian Iron and Steel Company’s administration.

Like many of the 11,000 workers employed at this gargantuan steel company, Omar claims that administrators have incurred massive losses due to their negligence, mismanagement, and corruption — amounting to approximately LE1 billion ($US 140 million) over the past ten years.

However, administrators point out that every day the workers strike cost the company at least LE15 million ($US2 million) in losses.

According to a statement issued on Sunday by the Independent Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services, Omar has been at the forefront of workers demanding the accountability of administrators, in an effort to end the losses incurred by the Egyptian Iron and Steel Company, the country’s largest steel mill.

A lack of coke fuel for the furnaces has meant that the company is operating at approximately 25 percent of its original capacity, and industrial production is dwindling as a result.

Omar has vowed to continue with his hunger strike until his rights are restored.

Another group of workers moved to suspend their hunger strike on Sunday morning. Following a three-day hunger strike, 11 administrative workers at the Matai Central Hospital, in the Upper Egyptian Governorate of Minya suspended their hunger strikes after being offered concessions from their employers.

According to privately owned Al-Watan newspaper, the 11 administrative employees have been working on a full-time basis since 2012, yet have remained on part-time contracts since then, without the benefits and rights of their colleagues employed on full-time contracts.


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