Victimization of Egyptian Asbestos Workers
A Press Release circulated by the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS) in Egypt on June 18, 2004 reported the violation of the occupational and human rights of workers at the Ora-Egypt Company, an asbestos company in the 10th of Ramadan City, a desert city east of Cairo, Egypt.
Occupational asbestos exposures have been rife at this company since production began in 1983; it is no coincidence that 46 workers have contracted cancer. Despite moves in 1998 by the Egyptian Government to prevent the import of asbestos and other government attempts to improve occupational conditions for asbestos workers, the company continued to put workers at serious risk. At the beginning of 2004, new safety measures were set by the government and the company was closed until guarantees were forthcoming that these measures would be implemented. A few weeks later, Ahmed Lukma, the owner of Ora-Egypt Company, stopped paying the workers' salaries.
With no income, injured workers looked to the Government for assistance but the Health Insurance Institution refused to recognize their illnesses as occupational diseases; this decision prevented the workers from receiving compensation and medical treatment. Left with no other choice, the Ora-Egypt workers went on strike in June 2004; their demands are simple:
1. Payment of all wages owing since April, 2004;
2. Implementation of recommended safety measures prior to the recommencement of asbestos manufacturing at the company;
3. Access to fair compensation and comprehensive health insurance;
4. Full compliance by Ora-Egypt with ministerial asbestos decrees regarding health and safety for asbestos workers.
Exposure to asbestos causes debilitating and fatal diseases. In the 21st century it is appalling that workers are still being occupationally exposed to asbestos. It is essential that the Egyptian Government, religious groups, trade unions and non-government organizations support the rights and actions being taken by the Ora-Egypt workers. Furthermore, assistance is needed to ensure that, in the future, workers do not receive such hazardous exposures. The best way to prevent this is for a national asbestos ban to be enacted and enforced and for the Government to oversee the transition from asbestos to non-asbestos technology throughout the country.
To express support for the striking workers, complete the online form at http://www.labourstart.org/cgi-bin/solidarityforever/show_campaign.cgi?c=33
or send a message to one of the following bodies1:
1. The Center for Trade Union and Workers Services
2. The Trade Union of Engineering Industries: fax: + 20 2 578 29 31
3. The Egyptian Trade Union Federation: fax: + 20 2 575 34 27
4. The Head of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation: fax:: +20 2 574 63 74
5. The Ministry of Justice: fax: + 20 2 795 81 08 and
6. Shoura Council: email: Saic12@idsc1.gov.eg
7. The Head of the People's Assembly: email: email@example.com and fax: + 20 2 794 89 77.
June 22, 2004
1 If you experience difficulty transmitting faxes to these numbers, fax your letter to the Centre for Trade Unions and Workers Services in Egypt (fax: + 20 2 555 70 14) with a request that they transmit them for you.