Inspired by Revolution, Egyptian Workers Occupy Factory
Produced and Edited by Jasmina Metwaly and Philip Rizk
VOICEOVER: Since February 2011, hundreds of workers have occupied the Torah Egyptian Starch and Glucose Manufacturing Company, a formerly publicly owned factory sold to the Maricana group in March 2004. In April 2010, the management claimed it would temporarily shut the plant down for renovations. Instead, workers witnessed the factory being gradually dismantled and were eventually laid off to turn the grounds into a tourism development. According to Al-Ahram, workers were given approximately $100 in severance–hardly enough to support their families, nor cover their exceeding medical bills.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I had heart surgery. I have high blood pressure and diabetes. How am I supposed to survive outside like this? Give me a reason to live.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Let me show you the destruction. They destroyed everything! Everyone had some sort of disease, but they were still working. Sick, but working!
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Twenty-seven workers with serious diseases, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, mental disability, cancer. The man standing there, he has cancer. Where should he go?
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): How? The realized profits are no more than the return on commercial papers and the sales of machinery scraps. Is this the company policy?
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): They’re robbing the company.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Since April of last year, this factory has not been producing. As you can see here, it’s all broken.
VOICEOVER: As was repeatedly witnessed in the Mubarak regime’s continuous efforts to privatize publicly owned companies, workers claim this highly profitable factory was sold well below market prices. Inspired by the January 25 revolution, workers are demanding they be given their jobs back or be compensated with an appropriate severance package and a retirement allowance.
SABER ABDEL KARIM HUSSEIN (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I am Saber Adbel Karim Hussein. I am the president of the workers’ union. This factory is approximately eight acres of land along the Nile, and there are 15 other acres on another factory in a place called Mostarad. This factory was sold in 2004 to an investor called Naser el Khorafy, a Kuwaiti. It was sold for 128 million pounds. This company had 42 million pounds in the banks. It had 13 million pounds’ worth of material and raw material in stock. It had available merchandise worth 15 million pounds. In April they sold the company, and on May 15, 2010, the new owners told the government officials that this factory was not functioning and needs an overhaul, meaning maintenance. And then we were surprised in November: they started to cut through the factory to sell it as scraps of metal.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): The factory stopped producing, even though all of the machinery was working. The majority of the machines were working at a high capacity. They’re getting rid of it for the land. The most important thing to them is the land. It’s all politics.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Today he came to throw me a bone and said: take two months’ salary for each year you’ve worked, and leave. I should get 10,000 or 12,000 pounds and go sit at home next to the kids? Am I disabled?
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): The owner considers the people here as ancient ruins of the old public sector–they should be completely wiped out. He’s mimicking Hitler’s mentality, although he isn’t smarter than the people here. Hitler’s way of thinking is that these people are inferior beings and that they need to be slaughtered and die, and the ones that are left are the "smart" ones. But I consider people here smart. They are experienced professionals. They can work well and keep the factory operating. But he, of course, wasn’t interested in that.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): He created a number of false companies as subsidiaries, such as supply companies, to receive tax exemptions. Where is this supply company? Where is its board of directors? What does it do? There was nothing!
HUSSEIN: He was receiving a subsidy from the ministry of the environment of approximately 300,000 euros. So he was taking money without a functioning company! He’s raping the nation!
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): At first the situation was, if you opened your mouth, they would take you to the state security. And they brought Major-General Mostafa Abdel Kader and Major-General Essam El-Din Hafez to scare and terrorize us.
ROAD SIGN (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): No to destruction. The laborers and its union demand to operate the factory in Torah.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): When we saw the revolution ignited and renounced corruption and the state security in the country, we were encouraged to begin our movement. When we saw these youth getting killed for the sake of democracy in the country, we started discussing our plight.
HUSSEIN: What we want is for the factory to run again. Before the revolution, we would dare not speak. The state security trucks would have gathered us all. But considering all that has happened in the country and its intifada, all that we are asking for is to operate this factory. We need no more than that.
SIGN (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): A plea to the attorney general: It must be a promising day out there to reverse injustice. It will be a bright day for the oppressed, and a dark one for the oppressors.
SIGN (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Long live the revolution and reject destruction.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I’m talking to you at the end of my wits. I left here at 5 a.m. and came back at 10 a.m. Enough! I can’t take it! Starting tomorrow, I swear to God, I’m going to bring my wife and kids and live here. I have an office here. I’ll open it and we’ll all come and live here. I can’t take the abusive strongmen anymore. We are imprisoned within ourselves, not behind bars, but as walking prisoners. Today I had the opportunity to hear that my son, my cousin, my uncle, my brother are all in Tahrir Square. I am no less than them. I am also defending my rights. The whole country is requesting for its rights, and I am asking for mine here. Today I am not imprisoned, neither from inside or outside. And I have the freedom to say so! Isn’t that what they are asking for? I am not against them. I am with them! But I am here.
End of Transcript
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