May 12, 2014
Egyptian worker militants sent the following letter that was published in the April 11th, 2014 edition of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.
“For four months, 84 workers of the National Vegetable Oil Company, the Egyptian branch of the U.S. company Cargill, have carried out a sit-in at the company's headquarters in the industrial city of Borg El Arab. Management has been sending security guards with attack dogs to harass them.
Ever since the new director assumed his position last August – one month after the coup that brought General Al-Sisi to power – he has declared that he will not cede an inch to union rights. He put an end to meetings with union representatives and suspended the collective bargaining agreements. A series of arbitrary actions against the workers followed, violating the agreements. The director blocked labor inspectors from access to the plant; meanwhile, complaints addressed to the government minister are ignored.
During an assembly, the workers decided to react with a sit-in, a form of protest often adopted in Egypt in order to try to force local authorities and a company's foreign owners to react. In response to this sit-in, which started on December 15th, the management placed the workforce on unpaid leave, using a delay of material needed in production as a pretext. When the sit-in continued, the management extended this decision week after week. Next, they recruited gangs of thugs accompanied by wild dogs to attack the demonstrators during the night. Finally, starting in January, workers were fired one after the other, now reaching a total of 75.
Four months have passed, and these thugs with their attack dogs continue to harass the workers. The management has escalated its tactics, cutting off electricity and water to the demonstrators and preventing the delivery of food and medicine. They replaced the security company with a different one with even more ferocious attack dogs. On February 6th, the company attempted to use a crane to remove the trailers used by the oldest workers, who are sometimes ill, to sleep protected from the cold. To prevent this maneuver, these workers attached themselves to the trailers using ropes wrapped around their necks. The crane operator refused the director's order to lift up the trailers.
All this shows the relentlessness with which the company bosses act to deny workers their rights. Now management is trying to starve out the workers by interrupting the payment of their wages as well as the healthcare pensions to which some of them are entitled. The government authorities have been totally indifferent.
The workers of the National Vegetable Oil Company call on all workers, unions and parties in Egypt and abroad to support their fight for their rights, especially by putting pressure on Cargill’s central office in Geneva.”