Crystal Asfour workers protest detainments amid ongoing strikes
Minister of Manpower Nahed al-Ashry - YOUM7 (Archive)

CAIRO: Hundreds of workers of the Egyptian company Asfour Crystal organized a protest on Monday, marching to the Shubra el-Kheima court in Qalyubia to demand the release of three coworkers detained since Saturday, one of the workers told The Cairo Post.

Ahmed Hassan, a 29-year-old worker at the company, told The Cairo Post that prosecution authorities on Monday ordered the release of his coworkers, the date of which will be determined. Hassan said they had been detained and accused of organizing strikes in violation of the protest law when they visited a police station to file a report about an assault by a colleague.

Instead, “they ended up in police custody,” Hassan said.

A total of 14,000 Asfour Crystal workers are striking in three factories in Shubra el-Kheima in Qalyubia, after the company administration denied them their profit share for the last fiscal year in an announcement on May 16, according to a statement by the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR). The board of directors had announced that employees would not receive their share because the company did not earn enough profit in 2013.

“Workers stated that the administration violated a general agreement signed with the former Minister of ManpowerKamal Abu Eita, under which they were to obtain their profit share in the coming month of June,” ECESR stated.

The workers will continue their strike until their demands are met, ECESR stated. They are demanding to receive their profits and the establishment of a new agreement to replace an agreement they claim they were pressured to sign without discussing all of the articles, it said.

The previous agreement was a solution to end a worker strike that began last November, when Asfour Crystal workers demanded permanent contracts, wage increases, profit shares and labor stability. Their strike led to negotiationsbetween the workers and the company, facilitated by the former ministers of solidarity and manpower, and labor union representatives.

On the eleventh day of the strike, media reported that an agreement was reached to end the strike, but the workers said the agreement did not fully meet their demands.

“They responded to other demands, but not the main ones. The ministry has guaranteed that no worker will be sacked until the end of December, but what will happen after that? We signed what we believed was the meeting minutes, however we stated that we could not sign the agreement because it does not respond to the main demands,” Ahram Online reported Zaki, a worker at Asfour Crystal, saying on November 21, 2013.

Hassan told The Cairo Post that the strike is ongoing, adding that none of the workers’ rights under the agreement were delivered, such as allowances. He spoke of dangers on the job.

“We work in a high-risk environment, our health is endangered by the toxic products used in crystal production. We have medical reports proving elevated intoxication rates,” he said.

Ashraf el-Wahsh, director of administrative affairs for Asfour Crystal, told Youm7 that CEO Waleed Asfour responded to the workers’ demands, explaining that the agreement states that profit shares are distributed based on the company’s end of the year profit share, a distribution that has not occurred in the past year due to losses surpassing 100 million EGP.

Hassan said the administration informed them that Asfour was refusing to meet with them. He said on Wednesday a group of workers will meet with the Ministry of Manpower, while another group will meet with the Cabinet of Ministers.

Asfour Crystal is ranked fifth in the production of crystal worldwide. Last November 19, the company reported losing 150 tons of crystal in three days due to worker strikes.

Additional reporting by Mohamed Kassem and Hassan Afifi.

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