Saturday, October 30, 2010

My letter to president Arnold on the AUC workers strike

Dear president Arnold,

I would like to bring a recent concern of mine to your attention.

I am very grateful for the tools I received at AUC to think and assess critically the social and political processes that shape our daily lives. Since completing my graduate studies at AUC earlier this year I have been able to put some of these lessons and tools to use on behalf of the out of place and displaced. Thus, much of my journalistic and video work has focused on workers and farmers who are prime targets of cronyist and neo-liberal structural political processes in place in the Egyptian political regime. Since the late 1970s this group of people have become less and less of a priority to the Egyptian authorities and even more intensely so in the past decade.

It was with much concern that I read about the strike taking place on AUC's campus this week- the very campus where I learned to question these most draconian of measures.

In recent years living costs in Egypt have been going through the roof, working myself as a free-lancer I have struggled to cover my expenses. I realize I lead a very much privileged life style. Yet, even if I moved in with my parents where I would not pay for rent or food and were I to limit my life to the most basic expenditures I doubt I could manage spending only LE400 a month and that is only supporting myself. How a breadwinner supporting an entire family does so in Egypt I have no idea.

I would ask that AUC act as a beacon of difference in a country where workers are used and abused in a structural manner. Can AUC rise to the challenge and provide a moment of difference?

Earlier this year video I made a short documentary featuring a lawyer, economist and worker involved in raising court case 21606 against the Egyptian president, prime minister and minister of industry to provide a fair minimum living wage in accordance with market prices. The video will provide you with a very clear explanation for why the provision of a monthly salary of LE1200 is a very basic "human right"- the right to a fair wage and the right to lead an honorable life- that I believe AUC as an institution stands for. The call for a minimum salary of LE1200 a month is based on the UN's poverty line of $1 per day for an average household of five people.

I would ask you to consider very seriously implementing what I consider the most basic demands of AUC's workers:

1. Receive a gross minimum monthly wage of 1,200 EGP (which means less than 1000EGP net) with equal pay for all workers who hold the same position.

2. Have Saturday as an official holiday for the AUC workers as it is for all those employed in the maintenance, service departments and the administration. If one is to work on Saturday they shall receive overtime pay for their work.

3. Receive 200 EGP as meal compensation (or an adequate meal) in addition to the salary.

4. Receive annual salary raise of no less than 10% on the original wage of each worker. This percentage is subject to be increased by the administration.

5. Receive Social Insurance coverage that includes all the years of service to the AUC.

thank you for taking the time to consider my concerns,

Philip Rizk