Mahalla strike escalates as workers protest outside company HQ

Three thousand workers from the state-owned Misr Spinning and Weaving Company [MSWC] gathered outside the company headquarters in Mahalla on Tuesday to protest the decision to shut down electricity at the factories, and the continued refusal to meet workers’ demands.

Workers at MSWC have been on strike since Sunday 6 August over the delayed payment of bonuses, worth 10% of their annual salaries, for an increased share of company profits, and increased food allowances. Pictures on social media and independent news websites show workers occupying parts of the factories.

Since last Sunday, the number of workers on strike has increased to 16,000, meaning that all of the company’s factories are now affected. According to company sources quoted in Al-Masry Al-Youm, the strike has cost the company LE55 million.

And successful solidarity action has taken place at another Mahalla factory, Al-Nasr Dyeing and Processing – where 3,000 workers forced management to agree to the payment of delayed bonuses after a three hour stoppage.

The 16,000 MSWC workers have been told by a delegation of local MPs that they will resolve the dispute in their favour within 7 days if they return to work. The strikers have rejected this offer, and vow to continue the strike until all their demands are met.

This level of resistance to the regime is notable, and the decision of management at Al-Nasr Dyeing and Processing to give in to the workers demands shows that section of local management are worried about how the strike could spread.

Mahalla workers’ anger at the delay to their bonuses has been fuelled by the rising cost of living, following a package of ‘economic reforms’ imposed by the military regime last November including floating the Egyptian pound on international currency markets and further cuts of subsidies on basic goods.

Prices spiralled upwards over the winter, driving a wave of strikes many of which have been met with harsh repression. A previous attempted strike by workers in Mahalla on 7 February followed spontaneous protests in seven governorates over the slashing of subsidized bread rations.