Sacked Mondelez Egypt union leaders in Geneva meet with IUF, Swiss unions and international journalists
Two of the founding members of the independent union launched last year and then brutally repressed at the Mondelez Cadbury plant in Alexandria, Egypt travelled to Geneva for a special session of the IUF Executive Committee on May 30, where they described their experience in terms of the ongoing struggle for democratic and worker rights initiated by the overthrow of Mubarak.
Hussein Ahmed and Nasr Awad told the members of the Executive Committee how the Mubarak regime had disciplined workers to encourage foreign investment based on low wages and a workforce without rights. The democratic uprising had inspired workers to claim their rights at the workplace, but the new government was resisting these demands with the same methods as the old regime. The EC accepted the Cadbury union into membership at the meeting and affirmed its support for the global campaign for union rights and recognition at Mondelez.
The two would have been joined by representatives of the Tunisian UGTT union at the Mondelez biscuit joint venture SOTUBI, but at the last minute the Swiss government denied visas to current and former union general secretaries Ghaith Nafti and Zied Naloufi. The IUF is protesting this refusal to the Swiss authorities as a gross violation of freedom of association.
The two trade unionists took their message to a meeting hosted that evening by the IUF's Swiss affiliate Unia, organized together with the IUF within the framework of Unia's ongoing support for the UGTT and democratic forces in Tunisia. Many participants at the meeting were surprised to learn that Mondelez owns the iconic Toblerone brand, and outraged at the company's behavior in Egypt and Tunisia. The masses who fought the Mubarak regime, the Cadbury unionists told the meeting, would never accept a Mondelez regime or authoritarian workplaces by other employers and would continue fighting for their rights.
IUF general secretary Ron Oswald and the Egyptian unionists spoke to a press conference at the Geneva international press club the following day, where Oswald challenged Mondelez corporate management to explain the company's refusal to talk to - or even acknowledge communication from - the IUF. The IUF and its members, explained Oswald, would not permit Mondelez to suppress a basic struggle for democratic rights by inflicting hardship on union members and leaders.
Watch the press conference here