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‘Sovereign entity’ intervening in state media workers strike

A “sovereign” government entity has intervened in protests for overdue wage payments held by state media workers at the Maspero building in downtown Cairo, according to Khaled al-Sobky, the head of the union committee for economic sector workers at the National Broadcasting Authority.

Sobky told Mada Masr on Saturday that a representative of an executive state body contacted him to seek a resolution to the protests and to relay what the union leader called the “official viewpoint” that Muslim Brotherhood channels have been exploiting the protests for political gain.

“So, I promised that, starting tomorrow, protesters would carry pictures of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Egyptian flags to avoid the issue being politicized, which seemed satisfactory to him,” Sobky said.

The same representative also requested that the demonstrations stop on January 25, the 11th anniversary of the 2011 revolution and that the protesters submit an official list of demands and complaints, said Sobky. He responded that it would not be possible to stop the protests until an agreement was reached regarding a clear schedule for overdue wages, pensions and bonuses to be paid out to Maspero staff.

The authority has thus far agreed to pay overdue bonuses for 2017 and 2018, and for one month of 2019, as well as to pay out end of service bonuses worth around 150 months’ worth of salaries to those who stopped working at Maspero from 2019, in addition to severance pay for those who retired in November and December 2018 and are yet to receive the dues.

According to Sobky, what the authority has agreed to pay is the equivalent of around LE800 to LE1,000 to each worker, though Sobky said each is in fact owed about 24 bonuses and 54 months’ worth of incentive payments, or a minimum of LE14,000 per person.

Protests at Maspero began on the first day of the new year, when workers were angered by a new order from National Broadcasting Authority chair Hussein Zein that put in place a new full-time, fixed working schedule that employees speaking to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity said will impact their ability to take on second jobs.

For years, employees said, workers for the union have had to take on extra jobs to supplement wages that are often extremely low, and have relied on the flexible shifts at Maspero to allow them to do so.

Crowds of workers gathered to demand that Zein step down from his position and that years of overdue payments be released if they are to agree to the fixed-hours schedule.

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