65 workers at the Petrotrade Company have been suspended by the management after they were accused of inciting other workers to strike, a tactic that could lead to the worker’s enforced early retirement.
The workers told Daily News Egypt, during a press conference hosted by the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECSR), that the management has been taking increasingly “oppressive measures against the striking workers”.
“We demand the halting of all these measures that are being carried out against the workers,” Shaimaa, a worker from the Nasr City branch said.
“Some of us have been informed that we were suspended by phone, during public holidays. We were also referred to investigation and went to the police stations to be interrogated. The management also accused us of embezzlement,” Shaimaa added.
“We are practicing our right to strike inside our place of labour. We are not violating the law, nor are we protesting outside our headquarters.”
The workers launched the strike in response to the dispensation of additional bonuses that were issued to all mangers and their favoured employees in their “inner circle” last month, while bonuses were denied to the wider workforce. Hassan, a worker in the Giza branch, described the act as “theft in broad daylight”.
Citing a marked disparity in the wages between workers and the management, Hassan said there are two salary regulations in the company; one applied to the mangers and another applied to the other workers. “It is illogical and unfair to have two employees with the same work descriptions, which get different salaries.”
As the strike is continuing into its fifth week, following numerous failed attempts by the management to resolve the dispute and meet the workers’ demands, around 52 branches across several governorates have stopped working, with an estimated 18,000 workers on strike.
Established in 2001 as a joint-stock company, Petrotrade specialises in collecting receivable payments from domestic gas users for Egypt’s Petroleum Authority.
Last week, several independent syndicates released a joint statement declaring solidarity with the Petrotrade workers, describing the management’s reaction to the demands as “a continuation of series of denial and oppression”.
As established by the precedent set by Egypt’s High Administrative Court last April , workers are forbidden from striking, and if found to have been involved, can be recommended for early retirement. For unlicensed workers, participation in a strike is considered political protest, which is outlawed by the controversial Protest Law.