Large-scale strikes occurred on February 10, 2014 at Egypt’s largest textile company, the state-owned Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla, and have focused attention on the company’s frustrated workers. The textile workers intended to continue their strike until the company’s management meets their demands for reform. The Misr Spinning and Weaving Company employed approximately 22,000 workers at the time. According to reports, around 13,000 workers were participating in the sit-in, following the failure of the company to provide promised bonuses and institute the government-sanctioned minimum wage.
The strikers’ primary demands included the recall of the president of Textile Holding Company, Fouad Abdel Aleem, out of concerns regarding entrenched corruption. Additionally, the strikers demanded the provision of a monthly minimum wage of LE 1,200 (roughly $172), as well as labor representation on the administrative boards of the company. The strikers also demanded a return of the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company to its original production capacity before the most recent stall. Finally, the strikers demanded the reinstatement of workers who were fired for their complaints before the strike and the payment of long overdue profit shares.
The Misr Spinning and Weaving Company was unwilling to give in to the workers’ demands and appeared unlikely to willingly reach a compromise with them. Representatives from the company argued that due to the depressed Egyptian economy and resulting financial difficulties, the company had not accumulated any real profit. Instead, the company was willing to offer bonuses to workers on future profit.
To assuage the workers, the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company offered to increase its workers’ wages with the extra LE 70 million it recently added to its monthly budget. However, the textile workers were unwilling to accept this offer without the company first agreeing to their primary demands. According to those participating in the strike, they were fighting for the realization of their social and economic rights.