In an unprecedented action, the first following the recent Israeli war on Gaza, workers of the Egyptian Fertilizers Company in Suez protested on Saturday, 7 February against the export of fertilizers to Israel.
The Egyptian Fertilizers Company is owned by Onsi and Nassef Sawiris under the umbrella of Orascom Construction Industries. The Egyptian Fertilizers Company signed an agreement to export 1,000 tons of phosphate fertilizers to Israel, at a rate of 100 tons per week. An estimated 800 Egyptians work at this factory.
Two days prior to the protest, workers were surprised by a request from the management to process an order of unmarked bags that will be transported by Jordanian trucks to an undisclosed location. As a result, about 100 workers went on strike and refused to process the order because they believed, rightly, that the cargo would travel to Israel.
When the management learned about the situation, they broke the strike by threatening the workers of dismissal and deducted 15 days of pay from all workers at the company.
There is no doubt that the Egyptian workers at the fertilizer factory in Suez have taken a big step forward. First, this strike is a political strike held for purely political reasons, not to demand wage increases or bonuses or meal allowances, though the importance of such demands must be fully recognized since they reflect the movement of workers struggling in the face of exploitation and oppression to mitigate the real and immediate injustice. Second, they showed the correct path for the Egyptian movement of solidarity with the Palestinian people.
The conditions in Egypt have changed a lot since the beginning of the second Intifada, because of the Egyptian regime’s naked hostility to Hamas and therefore also to the Palestinian people in Gaza and to solidarity with their resistance from all walks of life here, and because of the rise of social movements, particularly the labor movement, in the last three years.
Solidarity with the Egyptian fertilizer workers today is the duty of all who are concerned about violations of workers’ rights and interested in an upsurge in workers’ activity, just as it is the duty of every defender of Palestinian rights in the face of a hostile regime.
Finally, it should be noted that the iron and steel workers asked the management to donate a day’s work for the people of Gaza, who remained steadfast last January.
Long live the struggle of the working class!
Long live the struggle!
The original article أضراب عمال المصرية للأسمدة احتجاجا على التصدير لإسرائيل was published by Mashahed on 10 February 2009. The English translation is in part based on one provided by Tadamon! on 17 February 2009.