UPDATE 18 June – appeal court reduces Torah Cement workers’ sentences from 3 years to 2 months in jail
Security guards who took part in a sit-in to demand a contract after years of service with Torah Cement company were sentenced to three years in jail after a rushed, unfair trial in May this year. Their appeal will be heard tomorrow, 18 June.
The case has sparked a strong reaction from trade unionists, activists and human rights groups across Egypt. The General Union of Tourism Workers, the Egyptian Union of Oil Workers, the Union of Workers in the Spinning, Weaving, Garment and Leather Industries and the Permanent Congress of Alexandria Workers were among dozens of signatories to a solidarity statement released after the trial. This latest attack on workers’ rights has been seen by many activists in the labour movement as ominous confirmation that the Egyptian regime and its judges are determined to keep the lid on social protest through repression.
The dispute began earlier this year, when the security guards began a sit-in to protest at the Torah Cement company’s failure to honour their right to be taken on directly despite 10-15 years of daily service. Workers’ patience with the company finally snapped after a guard was killed by robbers during a break-in, leaving his family penniless and without even the money to pay for a funeral. Around 75 security guards set up camp inside the company premises and stayed there for 55 days, until the security forces stormed the protest and arrested dozens of workers. On 3 June, 32 workers were sentenced to three years in jail, on charges of violent disorder and assaulting the police.
Egyptian trade unionists, human rights groups and opposition activists are appealing for international solidarity with the Torah Cement workers in advance of their appeal hearing. In Australia, activists from maritime and construction workers’ unions have taken up the issue, with dozens of trade unionists signing the solidarity statement. Paul McAleer, Secretary of the Sydney Branch of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), which represents 16000 Australian stevedores, seafarers, and other maritime workers said in a message of solidarity to the Torah Cement workers:
The MUA Sydney Branch stands in solidarity with you and joins in your struggle for justice
Vinne Molina, President of the 112,000-member Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) in Western Australia added:
Respect civil and democratic right. Free the jailed the workers
Other signatories include Mick Buchan, CFMEU Western Australia Branch Secretary; Jimmy O’Connor, CFMEU Southern Australia Assistant Secretary; Lucy Honan, Branch Councillor for the Australian Education Union; Michael Thomson, National Tertiary Education Union State Secretary for New South Wales.
In the UK and USA trade unionists are also mobilising support for the Torah Cement workers. Ian Hodson, General Secretary of the food workers’ union BFAWU has backed the statement, while US signatories include Michael Letwin, Co-Convenor of Labor for Palestine.
What you can do:
- Read and share the solidarity statement
- Share the campaign banner and icon on social media
- Pass a resolution in your trade union branch in protest at attacks on workers’ righs in Egypt
- Tweet out messages of protest to the Egyptian government (Egyptian president Abdelfattah al-Sisi @Alsisiofficial)