Thousands of Egyptian workers at a textile factory have staged an open-ended strike in a northern Egyptian city where crippling industrial action several years ago inspired many other factories and helped spark a revolution against ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
As many as 16,000 workers at the government-owned Misr Spinning and Weaving Company (MSWC) were on strike in the city of Mahalla to demand that a 10-percent raise promised by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in June be applied to their salaries. They also demanded a 10-percent raise in social benefits.
As many as 10,000 workers joined the strike on Wednesday alone, bringing the country’s largest state-owned industrial facility to a standstill. The strike had begun on Monday.
Security forces have been deployed to the city in anticipation of potential unrest.
The workers say they would not go back to work unless their demands are met but have have said they would remain inside the building to avoid any clashes with security forces.
The Egyptian president had promised the raise “to lift burdens off the average Egyptian citizen,” said Faisal Loksha, a leading activist worker.
Later in June, Minister of the Public Business Sector Ashraf El-Sharkawy said factory workers would not receive the raise because they had received an end-of-year profit share.
Loksha explained that the workers were shocked when they heard the news that they would not be paid the raise.
“For the past couple of weeks, we have organized short rallies inside the factory after working hours, demanding the raise,” he said. “As our demands had not been met, we decided to go on a full strike in the factory.”
Workers at another textile company in Mahalla have also reduced production in protest to the government’s decision not to pay the promised raise.
Mahalla was the site of protests against the ousted government of Mubarak. Demanding bonuses and higher wages back in 2006, workers in the city staged a strike that spread to other cities and sparked anti-government protests across the country. The strike was said to be one of the major factors leading up to the 2011 revolution that ousted Mubarak.