All 3,000 workers of Mffco Helwan, a leading Egyptian furniture manufacturer, have gathered in front of a factory owned by the company in Helwan after they found three of their workplaces in the Cairo suburb closed.
The protest follows two days of strikes over pay-rises that started on 2 May. Workers are demanding the 15 per cent annual rise agreed between the government and businessmen, claiming the administration is giving only 10 per cent for workers earning under LE1,000 a month and 7 per cent for those paid over LE1,000.
Workers are also asking for a share of the profits, paid holidays and the right to take delayed holiday leave. “Any day of absence is cut from our salaries, even Fridays,” an employee told Ahram Online. “We want to be treated humanely like other workers.”
Representatives of the Military Supreme Council and the organisation responsible for social pensions visited Mffco on Tuesday, brokering an agreement with employees that they would resume work today.
But workers arriving at Mffco factories this morning were surprised to find them closed and no one from the administration present.
“They left only our colleagues who work as security guards and hid the company’s buses inside as if they thought we would sabotage them,” says the employee. “They want us to do that and given them an excuse to oppress us, but that will never happen — the factory is our livelihood,” he adds, stung by accusations that workers’ actions are causing economic problems.
“The military representative told us that our problem is being considered by the highest authorities.”
As with most private sector companies in Egypt, workers at Mffco Helwan have no syndicate to organise protests or lead negotiations with their employer. They say they intend to form one.