Portuguese / Spanish / English

Middle East Near You

UK bathroom giant moves to Egypt despite severe repression on workers

Ideal Standard store in Hull, England
Ideal Standard store in Hull, England [Twitter]

A bathroom producing company is preparing to move production from Hull in the north of England to an existing site in Egypt.

Britain’s general union GMB has expressed concern that 85 jobs will be put at risk by the move Ideal Standard’s move to the North African country: “This is another nail in the coffin of UK manufacturing and once again it’s the north that takes the brunt.”

The decision to relocate to Egypt is highly controversial given the relentless assault that takes place in Egypt on workers and trade unionists.

In a statement last year Amnesty International said workers and trade unionists who express their grievances, mobilise or go on strike face arrest, detention or dismissal from work.

Trade unionists played a key role in the 2011 uprising in Egypt in which protesters demanded freedom and a living wage.

 Egypt: Aisha Al-Shater transferred to prison hospital after health deteriorates

Yet repression on their activities has escalated since then. Last year Egyptian authorities excluded leaders of trade union syndicates from taking part in the first trade union elections in 12 years and then championed them as free and fair.

The Italian student Giulio Regeni was tortured and murdered by Egyptian security forces because of his research into Egypt’s independent labour unions.

Workers at military-owned factories face the added danger of unfair trials in military courts. Last year 25 workers from the Alexandria Shipyard Company, which is owned by the military, were trialed in a military court on charges of “inciting workers to strike”.

Military-owned companies have undergone an unprecedented expansion under coup leader turned President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. Businesses producing similar products are forced into liquidation or restricted from importing goods, creating thousands of job losses.

READ: UK universities open Egypt branches despite academic repression 

The military employ conscripted soldiers to work in their factories paying them nothing or next to nothing, instead of employing salaried civilians.

In 2017 the Egyptian parliament’s trade union draft law drew widespread criticism for reinforcing the regime’s already strict control and making conditions for the creation of trade unions almost impossible.

Ideal Standard did not respond to MEMO’s request for comment.

AfricaEgyptEurope & RussiaNewsUK
Show Comments
MEMO Conference: Cultural genocide and indigenous peoples: Palestinians, Rohingya, Uyghurs
Show Comments