Cameramen strike inside Maspero amid threats from SCAF
Dozens of employees at the State-owned Radio and Television building in Maspero ended their strike last week after the Ministry of Information agreed to their demands to be categorized as "engineers" rather than "technicians."
Some employees, who have been striking for weeks inside Maspero's studios, have complained about not being equally treated to other staff because their job classifications have long been stalled at "technicians."
Employees at Maspero are generally divided into four categories: engineers, media staff, technicians and janitors.
Last Sunday, video journalists and cameramen occupied some studios inside Maspero blocking many shows from going on-air. Two live programs on that day were forced to re-schedule with interviewees, so old episodes were aired instead.
Cameramen, who have been striking for weeks inside Maspero's studios, have claimed that they received verbal threats from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) after striking on Sunday, that warned them that their jobs would be at risk if they continue with their strike.
"[They] told us that they know who we are, that they have our names and that they have everything videotaped," said a cameraman who refused to mention his name out of fear of losing his job.
Workers also stated that the minister of information has ignored their demands. On the other hand, several employees addressed their complaints to the head of the television sector Essam El-Amir and head of the private Nile channels Ali Abdel Rahman, but no results were achieved at first, as some workers stated.
According to Azza Khalifa, General Manager of International Relations at Maspero, cameramen and video journalists, who all have high degree diplomats, receive pay at the technician level rather than the remuneration of engineers, which they should be entitled to.
"They are asking us to put them under a certain category that is representative of their qualifications," Khalifa told The Caravan.
Ahmed Yehia, one of Maspiro's senior cameramen, said that the financial problem is not the main issue although it is a concern for everyone working in the ministry.
"Our primary problem is that we are not categorized," Yehia said.
Last Sunday, employees Atef El-Moteiy and Yasser Hussein heads of the camera department met with the Minister of Information on behalf of the other employees who were striking, to discuss their qualifications and job description at Maspero, but both have reported no positive response on the part of the minister at the time.
"We were striking because we were not put under any category although our role is essential," Yehia said believing that if it weren't for his job, "there would be no visual media at Maspero."
On the other hand, employees have also expressed their frustration toward the ministry in terms of the salaries they get paid. According to the majority of workers who said that their salaries are low, sound engineers of many of Maspero's television programs receive "ten times more" than their salaries.
"We should be paid as everyone else per episode and not as a normal employee working from 8 am to 5
pm," Yehia said.
He said the strike is necessary for the Egyptian authorities to "sense how essential" their work is and that "without [it], TV would just turn into radio."
"I completely understand their demands but go strike at your superior's office," said Marwa Abdel Fattah, a producer of one of the programs that was not aired. However, she believes that "this is the only way employees will get their rights."