Living Off the Nile

Workers’ Fight, Cont’d

November 13th, 2010 by asmetana · No Comments

Here are some updates and more information regarding the workers’ struggle on the AUC campus for better working conditions.

The following is a copy of the petition that students signed in order to demonstrate their support for the workers’. It outlines the five key issues that are being contended.

“To: AUC Community

We, the undersigned, support AUC workers’ legitimate demands to:

1.Receive a gross minimum monthly wage of 1,200 EGP (which means less than 1000EGP net) with equal pay for all workers who hold the same position.
2.Have Saturday as an official holiday for the AUC workers as it is for all those employed in the maintenance, service departments and the administration. If one is to work on Saturday they shall receive overtime pay for their work.
3.Receive 200 EGP as meal compensation (or an adequate meal) in addition to the salary.
4.Receive annual salary raise of no less than 10% on the original wage of each worker. This percentage is subject to be increased by the administration.
5.Receive Social Insurance coverage that includes all the years of service to the AUC.

Negotiations between workers’ delegates and the administration are currently taking place. The workers are determined to continue the strike until all their demands are met.


The Undersigned ”

The workers’ strike had ended by October 31st. When I saw the workers walking around on campus when I arrived to campus on the 31st, I was happy. I had assumed that they had gotten their demands met. I later found out that this was not the case. The strike only ended because the workers were unable to financially afford to continue the strike. They either did not have a strike fund or it was not adequate enough. The biggest result of the strike was to raise awareness on campus about the conditions of the workers. The administration also partially met some of the demands. For instance, they agreed to let the workers take one Saturday off per month and have agreed to give them a meal stipend. In addition, they also agreed to raise the worker’s wages and to increase those wages each year, but the amount has not been specified.

Since these measures have been inadequate, further negotiations are continuing between the administration and workers. There was a round of negotiations on Thursday. To show solidarity with the workers, some students and faculty took a stand outside the administration building to send a message to the administration that the students and faculty are aware of the negotiations are taking place and that we expect favorable outcomes for the workers’.

I stood with fellow students and held up a sign. A classmate of mine turned up later and we held the sign together. He, however, was trying to use it as a shield to block his face. He did not want anyone walking past to recognize him. The only reason he was there was because his professor had taken the class to the stand for the first twenty or so minutes of class. He did not feel very comfortable being there, even though he supports the workers. Also, since he is Asian, he felt as though he stood out a lot since the groups was entirely Arab, expect for the two of us and one of his fellow classmates.

There definitely can be a sense of vulnerability and exposure when one participates in an event like this. I was surprised to find myself uncomfortable in the beginning as well and not sure how to interact/respond to the people walking past or looking on. It’s not as though there was any hostility against us, of the students that are aware of the situation, a vast majority are in support of the workers. The petition that mentioned earlier got 2,007 people from the AUC community to sign it. Also, there was no threat of violence and I had nothing to personally lose or gain by standing there. It was an entirely safe environment and I never felt at risk. So why did this feeling exposure, of having to somehow defend and justify myself and my beliefs arise? As time went on, I got used to being there and began chatting with the people around me. Soon, I felt perfectly comfortable.

My respect for the workers and their courage to go on strike has increased greatly. I cannot imagine what they were going through mentally and emotionally as they went on strike, and now as they continue to wonder how the whole situation will unfold in the upcoming weeks and months.

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