Crystal Asfour strikers caught up between demands and company counter-measures
The demonstration of the crystal Asfour workers - YOUM7 (Archive)

CAIRO: The Crystal Asfour Company administration in Qalyubia decided to give workers on strike a two-day vacation that started on Wednesday to reconsider their stance and to prevent any clashes inside the factories, Youm7 reported.

Workers at Crystal Asfour factories in Shubra el-Kheima entered their sixth day of strike demanding their annual profit shares to be paid, the end of arbitrary firing practices, and other labor rights.

“The administration told us we were on a vacation on Tuesday night, so we will return to the company on Saturday,” striking worker Ahmed Hassan, 29, told The Cairo Post Thursday.

On Wednesday, Hassan, along with a delegation of workers, headed to Cairo and met with Mohamed Eissa, who is in charge of group negotiations and social communication, at the Ministry of Manpower.

According to Hassan, the talks were not successful since the workers were asked to end their strike as a condition for any negotiations. Despite the company’s decision, Hassan, who left the factory, said some of the workers are still there but that they would all meet together on Saturday to discuss their next step.

The workers are facing a critical situation, especially since the company is pressuring them to end their strike and threatening to fire and deny them their monthly salary, claiming that the company is undergoing financial losses because of their strike.

“The strike is causing significant financial losses, which could result in problems in the full payment of the workers’ salaries on time,” head of the department of administrative affairs at the company Ashraf el-Wahsh said in a press statement to Youm7 Wednesday.

The company board of directors seemed to maintain its stance with further threats surrounding the workers. “We might be fired if we do not end our strike,” Hassan said.

Workers previously complained from arbitrary firing in the past two years, which was one of the main reasons of their first strike in November 2013. “Workers have been accused of destroying equipment and machinery at the factory in official police reports but investigations revealed the untruth of those claims,” Mostafa Rizk said in press statement to Ahram Gate on May 21.

Amid failure of the workers to obtain any responses from state officials regarding their issue, Hassan said they might escalate their cause outside the factory, especially since they might be banned from entering on Saturday if they do not refrain as requested by the company.

“We sat with an Egyptian Trade Union member and a lawyer to discuss our future plans but we want to continue confronting the company’s abuse of our rights,” Hassan added.

On a further note, workers complained about health risks associated to their work and neglected by the company, namely intoxication by lead used in crystal production. Hassan had previously told The Cairo Post that he has medical reports which show an elevated rate of lead in his blood, which is also the case with many of his co-workers.

While it may be challenging for workers to legally pursue the company and obtain justification for their strikes, “there could still be a chance of legal prosecution over the health damages they suffer from,” Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights lawyer Dalia Mosa told the Cairo Post Thursday.

Workers have been on strike since May 17 and all operations in two Crystal Asfour factories have completely halted. The strike was launched by angry workers following an announcement by the administration on May 15 claiming that the company’s profits have been declining. As a result, the workers would not get any end-of-year share of profits in violation of an agreement established between the company and the workers in November.

Additional reporting by Mohamed Kassem and Hassan Afifi.

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