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Lose your finger in a machine and you’re fired: the brutal reality of working at Mondelēz Egypt

Ahmad Abdulghani Awad Abdulghani, 26 years old, worked at Cadbury Egypt, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mondelēz, from 2008 to December 2011. He never had a permanent job, but was part of the army of precarious workers making chewing gum at the Alexandria factory. He lost half his thumb while operating a machine which should normally be run by three persons. Then he lost his job. This is his story.

“On July 12, 2011 – my day off – I was told to report for work or I would be fired. I was alone at a machine normally run by three persons. The machine wasn’t working, so I tried to repair it. The machine pulled my jacket inside. I tried to pull it back; the machine cut off the upper part of my thumb.

“There was no ambulance at the factory. After bleeding for a half an hour, friends and colleagues took me to the hospital.

“The Human Resources manager, Mohamad Abu Alainain came to the hospital and paid for an operation which lasted 3 hours.

“After one month I returned to work – the company said they would compensate me for my injury and make my position permanent. Instead, I was called to a meeting with management, warned not to mention what was said, and told I was to be on leave until further notice. I asked how I could possibly leave without compensation, and was told the company would contact me.

“They never returned my calls. I returned to the factory, but was turned away by security. Supervisors refused to meet with me.

“Finally security told me I was fired.

“I have tried to find other work, but nobody will hire me because of my thumb.”

This is the same factory management that sacked 5 union leaders in June 2012 following a spontaneous protest over the company’s refusal to pay a government-mandated private-sector pay rise. At least two of the union leaders were not even on the shift when the protest took place.

This is the company whose CEO had “better ways to use her time” when requested by the UK Parliament to appear in response to public concern about the Cadbury takeover.

It is a company that believes it can act with impunity and amputate rights in the way its machine amputated Ahmad Abdulghani Awad Abdulghani’s thumb and its management then amputated his rights and his livelihood.

IUF general secretary Ron Oswald has challenged Mondelēz to talk directly with the IUF. "Why is Mondelēz afraid to sit down with the IUF, an international union body that already meets regularly with a number of Mondelēz's main international rivals? What is Mondelēz hiding? In Egypt and Tunisia people have given their lives in nation-wide fights for rights and democracy. Mondelēz apparently believes those rights now stop at the gates of their factories. That cannot be right and it cannot be allowed to stand. We and our members worldwide will stand with Mondelēz workers in both countries for as long as it takes to end these unjust practices."

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