Sunday, November 02, 2008

The following article is from the British LibCom site.
Ghazl el-Mahalla workers protest privatisation:
Workers from the Ghazl El-Mahalla spinning factory held a demonstration Thursday against alleged plans to sell off the Ghazl El-Mahalla company to private investors.
At 3pm some 40 women workers had congregated outside the gate of the factory, located in the Delta town of Mahalla El-Kobra. At 2:45 pm hundreds of workers were filing out of the factory, ahead of the scheduled time for the end of the morning shift at 3 pm.

According to factory workers the morning shift was ended early — pursuant to orders given by security bodies — in an attempt to minimize the scale of the protest. The group of women workers entered the factory and, after a short altercation with factory security, were allowed into the factory’s central courtyard area, where workers were assembling.

Around 800 workers participated in the protest, chanting “The factory belongs to workers” and calling for the removal of the factory’s manager.

During the past two years the Ghazl El-Mahalla factory’s more than 20,000 workers have frequently staged strikes and demonstrations protesting pay and conditions. A successful six-day strike in the factory in December 2006 is credited with instigating the nearly 600 incidents of industrial action Egypt witnessed in 2007.

On April 6 a planned strike in the factory was aborted following intimidation by security bodies and workers divisions. A general strike against increasing food prices was called for by activists on the same day as the planned strike. Mahalla witnessed violent clashes between the police and crowds of demonstrators on April 6 and 7 and security bodies were heavily criticized for the way in which force was used against unarmed, peaceful demonstrators, and for the arbitrary detention of hundreds of Mahalla residents.

A group of 49 people from the town are currently on trial for acts of theft and criminal damage they are alleged to have committed during the course of the two days. Rights groups have criticized what they say are trumped-up charges against the group.

Three things to take note from the protests:
1) The protest was spearheaded, yet again, by the female garment workers…
2) No matter how big or small the protest was, it marks a huge step forward in breaking the barrier of fear in the factory, following the April police crackdown. As I posted before, political propaganda and agitation on the factory floor have been resumed following the severe setbacks due to the crushing of the April Intifada…
3) The major news wires AP, AFP, and Reuters, continue to be absent from the labor scene and social protests, ignoring the elephant in the room, focusing their reports as always on car crashes, Islamists, Gaza tunnels, and Mubarak’s efforts in brokering peace with the Israelis, bla bla bla

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