Plans to liquidate Egyptian Iron and Steel Company draw protest

The decision by the management of the Egyptian Iron and Steel Company to liquidate the company has led to protests with unions saying that up to 8,000 employees will lose their jobs

January 21, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
The headquarters of the Egyptian Iron and Steel Company. Photo: Al Ahram

The Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) on Tuesday, January 19, rejected the recently-passed resolution of the board of directors of the Egyptian Iron and Steel Company for its liquidation due to heavy financial losses over the last few years, according to a report in the Egyptian news outlet Ahram Online. This followed massive protests and sit-in demonstrations by thousands of workers of the government-owned company. The ETUF statement also appealed to all bodies concerned to overturn the decision and form a national committee of experts to examine the consequences of the liquidation, which according to estimates, would result in approximately 8,000 employees losing their jobs.

As per a report in the independent Egyptian news outlet Mada Masr, around 4,000 workers participated in massive sit-in demonstrations outside the company’s headquarters in the city of Helwan on Sunday and Monday. The workers reportedly surrounded and occupied the headquarters. The protesting workers also demanded that the authorities carry out thorough independent investigations into the various allegations of corruption, foul play and favoritism at the company. 

While the 77-year-old company is currently operating at a loss, it has been a major player in the construction and development of several large-scale public sector infrastructure projects which have contributed to Egypt’s social and economic progress. It employs over 14,000 workers. 

The decision to liquidate the company was met with uproar from various trade organizations and workers’ unions, including state-affiliated ones, a report in the Daily News Egypt stated this week. The decision was also opposed by several parliamentarians, politicians and civil society activists. The Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services (CTUWS) called for the fiscal rescue of the company, saying, “saving and developing the company is not impossible, but it will be a process that needs determination and rational management.” 

Head of the Private Sector Workers’ Syndicate Shabaan Khalifa also voiced opposition to the liquidation plan, calling it “a negative decision that will result in the further economic deterioration of the already depressed and suffering working class and middle class in Egypt.” He also demanded that the government explain the basis on which such a decision was made, which he estimated would adversely affect 7,500 families. He added that “other options could have been discussed such as cooperation with the private sector or others.” 

 The ETUF noted that saving the company is important not only due to its historical contribution to Egypt’s economic growth, but also pointed to its recent production and supply of oxygen cylinders to the Egyptian health ministry, critical to fight the pandemic. The ETUF decided to approach Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to intervene in the matter and rescue the company. It also asked for the formation of a national committee of experts to examine how the company can be resuscitated.