23 May, 2009

State union v.s. foreign capital

Workers at the Tanta Flax and Oil Company (sometimes confusingly referred to as Tanta Linen Co.) are coming under pressure from the management in an attempt to abort a strike that has been announced for May 31, Tadamon reports. The head of the local union has been forced to take a month's "vacation" without salary and is being accused of assaulting another worker.

According to workers at the company, the management also sent a letter to the General Union of Textile Workers asking it to dismiss the local union representatives (who are supposedly elected by the workers) and withdraw its backing for the strike. Two workers I spoke to yesterday welcomed the support of the union, while remaining cynical about the motives behind it: "They are afraid of independent unions, that's why they are acting now," one of them said.

Just like in Sheeben el-Kom, this company was sold to a foreign investor a few years ago (in this case a Saudi sheikh), which may be one of the reasons why the state-controlled union has chosen to intervene in this particular case. Feeling the pressure from intensifying attempts to organize workers independently, the union is trying to regain som legitimacy by backing workers against foreign capital, in a way they are still not prepared to do when it comes to companies owned by the state or Egyptian investors.

More background can be found in this report by Sarah Carr: State-run union backs textile workers’ strike.

No comments:

Post a Comment