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Egypt sets minimum wage at LE700, private and other public sectors workers excluded

Unclear decision leaves some government employees unsure of whether they are included, notably public transportation workers who have led the charge for fair wages

Marwa Hussein, Wednesday 1 Jun 2011
Samir Radwan
Egyptian finance minister Samir Radwan (Photo: AP)
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Egypt’s cabinet approved today a LE700 wage for government employees, the first concrete benefit the revolution has brought them but still less than the LE1,200 workers and activists have been seeking.

A source at the Ministry of Finance explained that only people working in the government will benefit from the increase and other public sector workers will not be included.

Though it is considered a step forward, limiting the minimum wage to public employees has the potential to generate anger among the vast majority of Egypt’s lowly paid workforce that will not benefit.

Workers from the private and public sectors have held protests demanding a minimum wage for the past few years. The demands were given strength by a court decision spurred by a lawsuit filed by a labour activist in 2010 who demanded the government raise the minimum wage from its 1984 level.

The government, however, didn't respect the judicial decision, possibly fearing an increase of public expenditures and a backlash from the influential business community.

It is not clear who exactly will benefit from today’s decision with many workers unsure whether the rise will apply to them.

Workers at the Public Transportation Authority have held many protests asking for a wage hike and are uncertain if they are included.

"We don't know if administratively we are considered a governmental body or not. Two months ago the head of the authority issued a statement saying that we are independent and don't belong to Cairo governorate," explains Ali Fatouh, an employee with the body. The statement was published after the governorate offered to give employees the privileges they had asked for.

Some of the workers of the authority get less than LE300 per month after 10 years of service.

The number of eventual beneficiaries of the decision was not revealed either.

Escalating anger from Egyptians seems to have obliged the government to partially assume the increase in expenditure that the minimum wage will generate.  However, the government is clearly still taking the businessmen’s side in the struggle between them and the workers.

The minimum wage rise will cost the budget additional LE 7.5 billion, the Ministry of Finance said.

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