Workers from the Nile Cotton Ginning Company (NCGC) announced on Monday they will stage a sit-in outside Itihadiya presidential palace on 30 March, demanding that the privatisation of the once-public sector company be annulled.
A statement from workers in the company said that after several pleas and protests since 2008 until last Wednesday, and after the court verdict and cabinet executive order were not applied, the workers decided “with all sorrow” to stage the sit-in.
The NCGC was sold in 1997 to a group of investors at a time when the company had manpower of up to 5,000 workers and was making profits, of which the workers received shares, according to the latest budgets before sale.
Since the sale in 1997, the company has appointed successive boards of directors, all of whom have been party to the sale of acres of lands and the assets of the company, laying workers off and other violations that have further escalated since the current board was appointed in 2008. This prompted workers to start protesting the privatisation of the company.
“The investors sold machinery from the company’s factories as scrap iron and they want to sell the lands, what did the state gain from this [sale]?” Khairy Rizk, a representative of the workers who are organising the sit-in, told Daily News Egypt on Tuesday.
Rizk revealed that the number of workers has continued to decrease until it reached an all-time low of 500 workers, who blame the investors who own the company and the policies of boards of directors that worked under them.
Following on the social upheaval that captivated the Egyptian social and political movements in the aftermath of the 25 January Revolution, a court ruling was issued in December 2011 to restore the company to the ownership of the government, citing violations in the sale process.
However, despite the ruling being upheld against appeals and despite the cabinet, under former prime minister Hazem Al-Beblawi, issuing an executive decree to restore the company, the decree and the ruling were never applied.
Minister of Investment Ashraf Salman and the Holding Company for Construction and Development (HCCD) are the bodies responsible for applying the ruling and the decree. According to Rizk, the workers hold both accountable.
Prime Minister Sherif Ismail has been meeting with parliament members to discuss a new government programme over the past few weeks. A number of parliament members brought up the issue of NCGC and its workers and he promised to deliver a solution.
“There are workers who haven’t been paid salaries for three months. If the prime minister doesn’t deliver, we are going for a sit-in,” Rizk concluded.