11 May, 2009

Oil workers protest layoffs

Workers from the Egyptian Drilling Company, EDC (despite the name apparently 45% owned by a Danish company - the A.P Moller-Maersk Group) gathered outside to ministry of manpower in Nasr city today to protest being fired. The said the EDC stopped the operation of several wells and laid off hundreds of workers since January. While this might seem like a natural response to the declining oil price (but not exactly fair since these companies hardly shared their huge profits during last year's record peak in the oil price but are now asking the workers to pay the price of the recession), the workers also claimed that the EDC has been hiring new workers at lower wages and on temporary contracts during the same period. They demanded to be returned to work or receive just compensation.

As the workers were still gathering outside the gates, the minister - Aisha abdel Hadi - suddenly left the building in a car, which made some of them furious. "We came to talk to the minister and you smuggle her out in front of our eyes?" one man yelled to the security guards. Later, a ministry official (possible security) came out to talk to the workers, refusing to say his name. He told them that the situation was beyond the control of the government since this is a global crisis and "even in America 5 million workers has been laid off".

It's ironic how government officials will deny the impact of the global crisis on Egypt one day, while at the same time using it as an excuse to escape all responsibility to help workers who are losing their jobs because of it...

These workers feel betrayed by the employer, the union, and the government after spending 10-25 years working for this company "12 hours a day 6 days a week" and then suddenly being left with no income whatsoever. One of the workers, a 50 year old man named Hafez, showed a wound on his leg and an older scar on his shoulder that he said was from work injuries. He complained bitterly: "The company stole 18 years of my life, and now they are throwing me into the street."

UPDATE: Sarah Carr reports: "EDC petrol comp. management makes u-turn and agrees to pay compensation and renew contracts of dismissed workers." And a more detailed report by Sarah Carr can be found here).

1 comment:

  1. Hello, I met your work on flickr. I like your photos and I am very interested by this subject, as I begin to be myself a syndicalist.
    Continue this kind of journalism, it is essential even if there were only one human to see it.
    Excuse my english.
    Au revoir