01 January, 2009

Mahalla activists announce attempt to build free union

According to a report in el-badeel today, workers at Misr Spinning and Weawing in Mahalla has started a campaign for building their own free union. An anonymous worker says that the decision was taken by all leading labour activists at a meeting convened last Sunday. It's described as a result both of the inspiring success of the tax collectors in launching their own union, and as a response to recent attempts by the management to quell activism in the factory by arbitrary transfers of radical employees.

Last Januari 15,000 signatures was collected for a petition where workers declared they had lost confidence in the official union, and in march 3000 workers signed letters of resignation from the general union of textile workers. Recently, a statement was released by "the free union (under construction)" where three demands was put forward: the holding to account of the managers who are responsible for the company's losses, realization of investments in the factory which were promised by the state after the 6 April events, and the return of all the transfered workers to their previous positions.

While the desire to build a independent union is not new and propagating for it inside the factory is just a first step in a long and difficult process, one thing that could be really significant is the fact that the leading labour activists in Mahalla seem to have put aside their differences after the split that occurred in the run-up to the 6 April strike. It shows, I guess, that their common interests in the face of cut-backs, anti-union actions by the management, and alleged plans to privatize the plant in Mahalla is stronger than past grudges and political differences.

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