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Strikes loom at Egyptian universities over minimum wage

Cairo University

Workers at 15 Egyptian universities have threatened to strike on 18 January over their exclusion from the national minimum wage for public sector workers.

The university workers club is demanding wage increases in line with the LE1,200 per month (approx. $170) minimum wage for public sector workers.

The club’s executive bureau said workers at universities and their hospitals, except emergency sections, would join the strike but not university professors.

The club called the strike after Higher Education Minister Hossam Eissa said the minimum wage for university staff would be financed by the special universities fund.

“This means the minimum wage at universities will be lower than the national minimum wage as the fund cannot cover the increases,” Mohamed Mahmoud, head of the club’s executive bureau, told Ahram Online.

According to Mahmoud the money available in the fund will allow a wage increase of LE250 per month for the lowest paid employees, but up to LE470 per month is needed to reach the LE1,200 minimum wage level.

The club’s administrative board will meet next week to plan the strike.

Workers at Cairo, Helwan, Alexandria, Fayoum, Minya, Aswan and Suez Canal universities are among those expected to join the strike. Ain Shams University will not participate.

On 18 September, the cabinet announced a minimum wage for the public sector of LE1,200 ($174) per month, to come into force at the beginning of 2014.

The idea of a minimum wage set at LE1,200 per month goes back to April 2008, when textile workers in Mahalla implemented a strike and included the LE1,200 as a demand. The demand gained traction during the 2011 uprising.

In June 2011, Egypt’s interim government set the minimum wage for public sector workers at LE700 ($102), which was criticised as being insufficient.

The raises are estimated to cost an additional LE18 billion ($2.5 billion) annually.

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