“SETTLEMENT” REACHED

AUC Students will know this already, but yesterday students received an email from the provost, subject line: “Resolution of the labor issues”. Text is as follows:

To the AUC community:

I am delighted to confirm what is obvious to anyone who has been on the New Cairo campus today, that the university has reached a settlement with our housekeeping staff.  Representatives of the administration, the Syndicate, the affected workers, faculty and students met last night and, after nearly seven hours of negotiation, reached a compromise on all of the outstanding issues.

We know that the events of the past few days were very difficult for our staff, as well as those who advocated so admirably on their behalf, and we appreciate the spirit of commitment and collegiality that was maintained throughout the process of negotiation.

As we move forward, we will be developing mechanisms to ensure that this spirit is not lost and that we continue to consult as widely as possible as we review staff and management salaries, working conditions, and indeed, the many other issues of that concern members of the AUC community.

In the meantime, let me simply say that I am proud to be associated with an institution that exhibits the forbearance, inventiveness, and dedication which have characterized AUC over the last few days.

Thank you,

Lisa Anderson

Here’s the problem, though. It’s not resolved, as confirmed by another email widely forwarded amongst faculty:

Dear Colleagues,

As you all know, AUC “housekeeping” workers started a job-action on Wednesday 28 October demanding better pay and work-conditions. AUC community,  especially students, have shown impressive solidarity and support of the workers’ action and their demands.  More than 3000 members of AUC community signed a petition supporting the demands in less than 48 hours.  AUC workers and students have also shown extra-ordinary commitment towards their university, trying to limit media involvement and scandalization, refraining from personal attacks on individual members of the administration, and standing firmly against any attempts of littering or vandalism.  Despite the fact that many of the workers received direct threats and bribes from their supervisors -to go back to work- the workers held their position until the scheduled meeting with administration on Sunday 31 October.

AUC administration came to the table with a refusal of ALL five demands!

They continued to adhere to their original plan of reviewing salaries in March 2011, with no commitment to a minimum wage. They refused to provide a meal compensation IN ADDITION to the minimum wage and considered a 200 EGP -to be paid starting November 2010- as BOTH a salary increase and a meal compensation!!  They refused to make Saturday an official holiday -as with other members of the staff- or to even provide an over-time pay for working that day.  They refused to commit to an annual 10% increase.  And finally they refused to be held responsible for workers Social Security insurance during their years of service at AUC -when they were COMPASS hires.

Moreover, AUC administration came to the table with a firm position on ending the strike and clarifying that their will be clear repercussions for workers if they don’t. After 6 hours of negotiations, the workers finally managed to convince the administration to give them ONE Saturday off per month, a commitment to announce the expected salary increase in February (with no commitment to a minimum wage).

Those workers are going back to working under conditions more fitting with corvee labor than waged employment.  In brief, they have to be ON the buses heading to work 6:30 A.M. and leave campus 4:00 P.M. six days a week  Their contracts are 6 months to one-year maximum, with different clauses giving AUC administration the right to dismiss them at any moment, not renew their contracts with no justification, and to change regulations without consulting with them  There are no clear mechanisms to protect the workers from abuses by their supervisors, which prevail (especially towards female workers) and no recourse for harm or abuse of power.

The current work-conditions breaches principles pertaining to workers’ rights and the very essence of what AUC preaches and strives to represent.  In how it responded to the workers demands, AUC administration went against the basic principles of social-responsibility and providing a fair, respectable, equitable work environment.

At this point, we owe it to ourselves as responsible citizens, educators, and above all an integral part of AUC-community to send a clear message to the administration that this is UNACCEPTABLE.  We call on all faculty members, and AUC community at large to show their support for workers demands, and to send a clear pedagogical message to students to be responsible citizens.  We call on you to meet under the Administration Building on Wednesday, 3 November at 1:00 for a one-hour stand demanding the administration to listen to AUC community and change the current conditions of workers.

This is a turning-point for the AUC to be the place we can be proud of.  The workers’ action have given us the chance to come together as one community supporting equity, justice, and fairness, and faculty members should be at the lead.

Please circulate this to ALL Faculty members you can access.
Rabab El-Mahdi, Political Science Department
Hani Al-Sayed, Law Department

There you have it. I mean, there’s nothing shocking about the fact that the regime- ahem, administration- tabled all the demands. Rabab El-Mahdi and Hani Al-Sayed have been incredibly proactive faculty members and I think it would be great to follow suit. Attend the meeting on November 3rd if you can.

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