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10 Aug 2015

Jano Charbel, Mada Masr (Egypt)

What Sisi didn't say about labour conditions in constructing the New Suez Canal

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"What Sisi didn't say about labor conditions in constructing the New Suez Canal", 07 August 2015

...During the canal's inauguration speech on Thursday, Sisi and the Chief of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), Mohab Mamish, paid tribute to those who died as “Egypt’s martyrs” in terrorist acts, including members of the police and Armed Forces, but didn't mention those who died during construction of the new passageway.

They glossed over the hazardous and precarious working conditions under which thousands labored for a year in order to build a 72 kilometer-long expansion of the existing Suez Canal. Using patriotic rhetoric, Sisi and Mamish praised the timely efforts of all those who were involved in the mega project, including around 44,000 workers, military engineers, machinists, technicians, and Suez Canal employees.

Spokesperson for the Health Ministry Hossam Abdel Ghaffar, told Mada Masr that of the 10 workers, including one medical doctor, who died while working on the new project, five are reported to have died of natural causes, such as pre-existing medical conditions and heart attacks, while the five others are reported to have died in industrial accidents on site.145 others were injured and required medical attention. The Health Ministry’s crews reported treating 103 workers who collapsed due to sunstroke. Another 41 were treated for venomous scorpion stings and one worker received medical attention after being bitten by a wild dog...

...However, [Seoud Omar, an independent union organizer and SCA employee in Suez City] commented that several private contractors, who recruited the workers, in coordination with SCA, imposed harsh working and living conditions on the workers.