CAIRO: Information Centers for Local Development (ICLD) workers were back on the street Tuesday protesting the government’s failure to uphold pay increase pledges.
“The government created these centers to address poverty and so on but it doesn’t even solve the problems of ICLD workers,” said Khaled, an ICLD employee from Alexandria.
Some 32,000 ICLD workers were appointed as part of a government contest in 2001. Employees say that over the years they have been repeatedly promised that they would be made permanent employees — and receive pay increases and health and pension benefits — but that these promises have not been honored.
Until an agreement reached in May, ICLD workers earned salaries ranging between LE 99 and LE 150 per month depending on rank and experience.
“I want to know what LE 99 buys. After inflation what exactly does LE 99 buy?” ICLD employee Sayed El-Badawy from Beni Suef asked as behind him some 300 workers chanted in a sit-in outside the Cabinet building in Cairo.
Following two protests outside parliament in April an agreement was reached increasing workers’ salaries and affording them health and pension benefits.
Workers say that the agreement — which was meant to come into force in July — has not been upheld.
“Under the new pay scheme, employees with intermediate- and high-level diplomas are meant to be paid between LE 320 and LE 380,” Anwar Mohamed from Kafr El-Sheikh explained.
Workers say that August salaries were set at the pre-agreement rates. Some of them told Daily News Egypt that they had refused to collect their salaries and alleged that they had received threats from state security investigations officers if they did not do so.
As a result of the government’s failure to uphold the May agreement, workers staged a protest outside the Ministry for Local Development during Ramadan, which, according to an ICLD worker who wished to be identified only as Khaled, ended after protestors received promises that they would be given the differences in pay owed to them after the Eid celebrations.
Many of the workers have spent their entire working lives with ICLD, which Hatem Babeel from Sharqiya explained is why they feel that they have no option but to remain in their jobs rather than look for employment elsewhere.
“This is a government appointment; we can’t just leave. They promise us that conditions will improve. We’re older and many of us have started families. Where are we meant to look for work elsewhere? Should we start from scratch all over again?” Babeel said.
There was a tight security cordon around the sit-in, and some protestors reported that security officers were threatening to disperse them. “They’re threatening to make us leave when we don’t have money to eat,” Afaf El-Sayed said.
Protestors nonetheless expressed their determination to continue the sit-in. Anwar Mohamed told Daily News Egypt that he was going to “throw away his [ruling] National Democratic Party membership card.”
“I won’t vote for them again. I’ll vote for anyone else. Any independent candidate,” Mohamed said.
Workers held the finance and local development ministries responsible for the failure to uphold the May agreement. “They’re all responsible for 32,000 people who are destined to sleep on the streets,” Nahed Abdel-Khaleq from Menufiya said.
“They repeatedly make promises they don’t keep. What have we done wrong? Did we appoint ourselves to the ICLD?”
ICLD employee from Menoufeya fainted during the protest. (Daily News Egypt Photo/Sarah Carr)