Egypt steelworkers accuse govt of serving tycoons

Steel workers in Cairo protested against a lack of fuel on Monday.

Egypt steelworkers accuse govt of serving tycoons

World Bulletin / News Desk

Hundreds of workers from a large state-run steel manufacturer staged a protest in central Cairo on Monday to decry the interim government's failure to provide them with enough fuel to power their factory.

"The government doesn't want our company to increase production for the sake of powerful business interests," Hamdi Ahmed, one of the Egyptian Iron and Steel Company's protesting workers, told Anadolu Agency.

"If the company achieves full production capacity, steel and iron prices will fall and Egypt will stop importing these commodities from abroad," he said.

With a workforce of some 23,000 and annual production of thousands of tons of iron and steel, the company represents one of Egypt's largest steel producers.

The decades-old firm was established during the era of the late president Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Protesting workers, who have been staging a sit-in at the company for the last 14 days, say the government has ignored their grievances.

Workers demand payment of allowances that have been withheld for the past 16 months.

They also say that increased production represents a top priority for the national economy, insisting that such a move would end the monopolistic practices pursued by some private iron and steel producers.

"Decreasing company production will cost us our jobs," said protesting worker Mahsoub Ibrahim.

"Some of our colleagues have already lost their jobs due to the management's protestations that the company doesn't have enough money to pay salaries," he added.

Over the past decade, an urban boom stimulated demand for steel and iron in Egypt and opened the door for imports from other countries.

Egypt currently imports thousands of tons of steel rebars from Turkey annually. These imports have not been affected by the cooling off of relations between the two countries since the July 3 ouster of elected president Mohamed Morsi by the Egyptian military.

Iron and Steel Company workers fear that the interim government is favoring wealthy business interests over their own – and over those of the national economy – by "intentionally" failing to provide the fuel necessary to operate the factory.

The company depends on coal and natural gas to produce iron and steel. Company workers say that if the government provided them with more fuel, they would be able to produce greater amounts of iron and steel.

They say Egypt's 2011 revolution that ousted ex-president Hosni Mubarak had not yet trickled down into the company's administrative offices since most managers were linked to Mubarak's now-defunct National Democratic Party.

"We're ready to donate half our salaries and bonuses for the purchase of fuel and spare parts for the company's factories," Ahmed said.

"But if we do this," he went on to ask, "can anybody give us guarantees that fuel and spare parts will actually be bought for the factory?"

Güncelleme Tarihi: 10 Aralık 2013, 10:28