Working conditions have continued to be difficult for some employees at the American University in Cairo since the university moved to the new campus. The security guards are part of the university’s work force that faces tough work conditions.
During the wave of workers’ protests that took place on campus last fall, security guards have been among those who were calling for certain changes to be made in their contracts, and to achieve better working conditions.
Working for long hours and not being able to take breaks on the job were the two main complaints from the security force working on campus this fall semester. These problems have persisted since last semester; however, security guards find that they have not been solved yet, even though a new work year is about to start.
“Security does not only mean to stay at the gates all day and night, but there are security members who keep moving around inside all the buildings the whole day in order to prevent any kind of fights that might happen between the students, or to prevent the theft of the offices,” said a security guard who wished to remain anonymous.
“Our tasks are more difficult by the beginning of the semester especially with the new coming students whom are not yet aware of the university rules and need a lot of consultation,” he added.
Through a sit-in organized last semester, security guards were hoping that their issues would be resolved.
“We only want to call for our rights without making any kind of problems, and we followed a very civilized way to explain our demands with no kind of violence,” said another security member who also refused to say his name.
During their sit-in, some of the security workers communicated their demands to Mr. Mahmud Zook, the director of the security on campus.
According to the statement of the two security guards interviewed, a meeting was held between the guards and the director of campus security on Jul. 7, where the guards presented their complaints and demands.
Demands included salary increases, suitable uniforms to contrast work conditions, and a request to open an investigation in the recent sanctions that were forced upon some of the security guards. They also informed Zook that their supervisors were often making undemocratic decisions.
Security guards have also been denied taking breaks in between their working day, with their supervisors claiming that their time off might cause problems to happen, since they are the ones responsible for reporting and rectifying any incidences in any of the university’s buildings. This is a concern for many security guards who wish to take time off during their day to pray.
The meeting resulted in a reduction to the number of overtime hours from 60 hours to 48 hours in order to guarantee some rest for the security men as well as an investigation in bad treatment of security guards and potentially and increasing their salary.
AUC however stands by its efforts regarding increasing salaries and paying fair wages. According to an email sent by President Lisa Anderson in March, “AUC has made concerted efforts in the past year to increase and regularize staff salaries and contracts, and our average salaries are higher than comparable salaries in national universities, as well as higher than they were a year ago even at AUC.”
The email set a time frame for a financial increase saying, “We anticipate that we will be able to announce the specifics of salary adjustments for the next academic year (September 2011) in June, after the Board of Trustees approves the University’s annual budget.”
The guards interviewed expressed that they trust in the university’s administration and that their rights will be achieved. Yet, the guards refused to state their identities in case of repercussions.
Yousra EL Nemr