AUC workers call strike to demand salary increases

Cleaning staff at the American University in Cairo (AUC) have been on strike since Wednesday to demand better pay.

After weeks of fruitless negotiations with the university administration, they organized a sit-in in front of the campus administration building on Thursday to express their grievances.

At the beginning of the month, employees threatened to stage protests for the same reason. At the time, the administration stated its intention to "investigate" employees' complaints in an effort to find "effective solutions."

Since then, however, no solutions have been forthcoming.

“These workers originally worked for the Compass sanitation company. Then they resigned from that subcontract to work for AUC, with which they signed contracts for LE650 per month. Some of them were assigned to work as security guards for which they received LE1200 per month," Mohamed Amin, assistant director of environmental services at AUC, told Al Masry Al Youm. "Yesterday, however, workers discovered that their salaries were only LE350 and that the university had canceled their pensions, even though this had been included in their contracts."

"Since yesterday, therefore, they've been on strike," he added. 

According to Amin, Brian MacDougall, AUC vice president for planning and administration, had offered to give workers an additional LE200 per month, but workers rejected the proposal.

“Last month I took home LE400," cleaner Ahmed Omar told Al-Masry Al-Youm. "This isn't enough to pay rent and living expenses."

"They kept promising to raise our salaries, but this never happened," he added.

Nasser Sayed, of the university's housekeeping department, said: “I usually get LE650 per month, but now I take only LE500. I’m married and have two kids and I’m in debt, and have to borrow money from people. When I tell people that I work for AUC, they think I get a good salary, but this isn't true. We should get LE1200 like security guards.”

Egypt recently decided to increase the national minimum wage. But according to AUC students that support the striking workers, the university administration does not plan to implement the decision until September of next year.

Many AUC students support the strikers, and some even created a Facebook page devoted to workers' rights. Some even participated in the sit-in.

The roughly 150 workers plan to continue their strike into next week.

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