The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Major strike at Nile Delta factory

Hossam is writing a lot today about a massive strike taking place at Ghazl el-Mahalla, apparently the biggest such strike at a major textile factory since the beginning of the year. He has videos and complains the issue is not getting international press coverage. From an activist's account:

After the first day of the strike and sit-in, the picture inside the factory is really amazing. 10,000 people breaking the fast together in Tala’at Harb Sq, located inside the company compound. It’s a scene, which I find no words to describe it with….

The government has started to present some compromises via the head of the Factory Union Committee Seddiq Siyam, in exchange for disbanding the strike. But the stupid forgot he was asking this (strike suspension) while the workers’ emotions and zeal are running at the highest peak you can imagine.. The inevitable happened.. the dude was screwed. The workers almost killed him, seriously I’m not joking. But he was saved at the last moment by the strike leaders.
Al-Masri al-Youm has coverage of the strike, saying there are 27,000 workers partaking (which might make it the biggest strike ever) who are protesting the non-payment of performance-related bonuses. They have made eight demands, including one of political significance such as the removal of the company's chairman and the withdrawing confidence from their representatives in the official (state-controlled) union -- a step that would encourage the formation of independent, parallel union structures. No wonder considering the official union said the strike was illegal and blamed the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition political movements was behind the strike.

One might ask whether this is going to be different than any previous strike, where generally the government made major concessions fairly quickly. Perhaps not, but it strikes me [no pun intended] that every time you have this kind of situation you have the potential for things to get out of hand and escalate unpredictably...

Update: Hossam has some more thoughts on making the link between economic demands and political change.