More Sokhna demos

Workers at Egypt's Sokhna seaport are continuing to strike until their demands are met, reports Nesma Nowar

12 February 2013
Operations at Sokhna Port are still being interrupted as a labour strike there enters its second week, forcing incoming cargo ships to head to alternative ports inside and outside Egypt, the state news agency MENA reported on Sunday.

Starting on 31 January, some 1,200 workers employed by subcontractor Platinum Maritime Services (PMS) have been staging demonstrations to demand employment contracts with Dubai's DP World, the company which operates the port.

This came after DP World ended its contract with PMS, a private staffing company, thus also ending the temporary contracts with PMS employees. DP World then contracted six other companies, not including PMS, to supply new workers.

The newly contracted companies pledged to appoint temporary labour in a bid to end the strike at the port.

However, negotiations with the workers failed, and they have not accepted the offer.

Speaking to Al-Ahram Weekly, Walid Al-Zanati, one of the protesting workers, said that the workers did not want employment with another subcontractor and that they wanted to be employed directly by DP World instead.

He added that the workers did not trust the new contractors, stating that only employment offers with DP World would end the strike.

"These companies' contracts are only for three years," Al-Zanati said. "What will we do after that?"

Al-Zanati said that DP World had not honoured a previous pledge to employ the workers with the company, saying that the company had promised it would appoint between 50 to 100 temporary workers each year after a major strike took place in Sokhna in 2011.

However, the company did not appoint anyone, he said.

"All we want from the company is for it to keep its promise," Al-Zanati said. "We will keep on demonstrating and demanding our rights until then."

A source at Sokhna Port who requested anonymity told the Weekly that legally DP World had no obligations towards the workers, saying that they had been employed by PMS, whose contract with DP World had ended. "As a social obligation, DP World has asked the new contracting companies to provide employment contracts for the workers," the source said, adding that the workers had refused the contracts though they had better salaries and improved benefits.

The source denied assertions made by the workers that DP World had promised employment for the temporary workers. "I believe that PMS should deal with its workers and convince them to end the strike," he said.

Though work at the port has been affected by the strike, operations had not been completely interrupted, the source said.

In a statement last week, DP World said that the protesting workers had hindered operations at the port, causing the Egyptian economy to lose LE15 million a day, with a total loss of LE120 million over eight days.

Egypt's Sokhna seaport has seen recurrent labour strikes since the 25 January Revolution, with workers demanding a larger share in profits, risk allowances and salary restructuring.

The port is managed by DP World, which signed an agreement with former prime minister Ahmed Nazif in October 2007 granting the company exclusive rights to run the port until 2032.

DP World is the third biggest marine port operator worldwide, operating 60 ports internationally.

© Al Ahram Weekly 2013


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