Strike Put on Hold as Administration Addresses Workers’ Demands

Mennat Youssef and Baheya Zeitoun

Photo by Allain El-Hajj

Students, workers and security men that held a nine-day strike in front of the HUSS building at the American University in Cairo have decided to put their protest on hold after the administration met some of their demands last Sunday.

President Lisa Anderson gave a speech on Monday in front of the HUSS building consisting of concessions to meet the protesters’ demands. The speech was met with cheers and chants of approval from staff and students alike.

An initial agreement has been made to give workers two Saturdays a month off, while a committee will be formed with the aim of providing the mechanism through which the university will be able to achieve this. The committee is to give the report with these recommendations in mid-November.

The Desert Development Center (DDC) workers, who were also on strike, got some of their demands met as well.

Ashraf El Fiqi, VP of Student Affairs, explains, “the working hours for the week will remain the same but to be able to give the DDC workers four Saturdays off each month, the DDC coordinator will reschedule the working timings. For example, the working day will be a bit longer.”

Tarik Marghany, an AUC staff member and one of the negotiators on behalf of the workers, adds, “For the DDC workers, the university is currently looking for another transportation provider to provide the workers with better buses. Dr. Lisa has also promised that there were will be two sets of comfortable uniforms provided to the DDC workers – one for summer and the other for the winter.”

Students with ideas for uniform designs were advised to provide them for the administration and will be taken in consideration and produced in January 2012.

As for the 200 L.E. allowance which workers demanded, the administration replied that there has been a misunderstanding that some people receive it while others do not. The university is in the process of revising all current workers’ salaries to solve these mistakes.

“Yes this is start; it’s satisfying. I have worked for 11 and half years at AUC and I have a family to support,” said one of the custodians at the strike.

Regarding the accusations made by workers involving unfair and ill treatment they have been facing from their supervisors, the university is forming a committee that will include a student, a faculty member, one administrator, and a representative of the workers to investigate all cases of harassment. Additionally, all supervisors will be given training and management sessions through professional companies with whom the university will sign contracts.

The course of trainings is proposed to begin in January 2012 and will end in July of the same year.

“The ten cases of workers who had their contracts terminated without prior notice or reason will be the first cases investigated by this committee,” added Marghany.

The workers embraced these concessions with cheers, yet it was the security men who were especially relieved by the announcements.

By the beginning of next month, level two security men will receive a raise of 250 L.E., putting their average salary at 1,500 L.E. according to Marghany. The administration has also proposed to provide clear information to the supervisors regarding an overtime policy and how it will be divided amongst those who work for longer hours.

El Fiqi explains, “The budget of the university will enable us to give this raise to the security men starting from the 1st of October.”

One of the security’s demands also involved the removal of the Executive director of Safety and Security, Mahmud El Zouk. With regards to this, a newly established committee was formed to investigate ill treatment of workers, and will also investigate the cases filed against him.

Further concessions made include a review of all temporary staff and the possibility of changing their contracts.

Finally, on behalf of president Anderson, Merghany insisted that no one would be punished for their involvement in the strike against the university.

“President Lisa said that she appreciates the professionalism and commitment the security men have shown the university in the past weeks of protest and during the revolution, and while the compensations given are not equivalent to the efforts made, there will be no deduction of salaries as was said by some people during the strike. No one is to be punished for his or her right to protest,” said Merghany to cheers by the crowd.