The decision to set the minimum income at EGP 1,200 was highly applauded by authority figures, although social rights activists voiced concerns regarding it.
Prime Minister Hazem Al-Beblawi announced in a press conference on Wednesday evening that the cabinet decided to set the minimum income within the public sector at EGP 1,200. The decision is to be implemented starting January 2014, Al-Beblawi said; he added that the minimum wage within the private sector is expected to be set next week, as it requires further discussions between businessmen and workers.
The Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) chairman Abdel Fatah Ibrahim met on Wednesday with the Minister of Planning consultant, businessmen and worker representatives to determine just rules for setting wages within the private sector. The ETUF announced that another meeting will be held on Sunday to announce those set of rules.
Minister of Social Solidarity Ahmed Boraei made press statements on Thursday applauding the decision to set the minimum income, reported state-run Al-Ahram. Boraei said that the decision proves that “the train of the revolution is reaching those who protected their revolution and [have] rid themselves of an oppressive regime taking a religious cover.”
Boraei said that Al-Beblawi’s cabinet is meeting the revolutionary demands of social justice and human dignity.
Minister of Manpower and Immigration Kamal Abu Eita described the newly set minimum income as the best the state can offer given the current economic conditions. Abu Eita told private satellite channel Al-Hayah that this decision achieves the first goal of the 25 January revolution.
Hossam Mo’ness, spokesman of Al-Tayar Al-Shaaby (Popular Current), described the decision as the “grandest decision since the 25 January revolution,” applauding all who played a role in applying pressure for decision-makers to see the light.
Mo’ness greeted Abu Eita with personal tweets for meeting his promise of setting minimum wages. He said that the decision can only be made complete by setting a maximum wage amid controlling prices, adding that he trusts Abu Eita to achieve the aforementioned.
ETUF’s chairman, Ibrahim, nevertheles
In a statement released on the ETUF website on Thursday, Ibrahim said the cabinet’s decision fails to provide workers with “job security.” He added that a worker’s full income, which includes his wage as well as a variable salary, such as bonuses, exceeds EGP 1,200 for the time being.
“The decision did not put the workers’ daily expenses into consideration,” the statement read.
Khaled Ali, director of the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) described the decision as “confusing,” adding that it involves several traps, namely postponing it until next year.
Ali told Reuters’ Aswat Masriya that the decision sets a minimum income that includes a basic salary as well as a variable salary, which makes it hard to monitor. He stressed the importance of setting a minimum basic salary. He described the decision as a “numerical trick,” adding that it will not genuinely improve wages.
The social rights activist suggested setting EGP 1,000 as a minimum basic salary and promising to carry out the decision while setting a maximum wage at 20 times the minimum wage.
Fatma Ramadan, member of the Egyptian Federation for Independent Trade Unions’ executive office, described the decision as vague. She said the decision fails to mention the source of funding, especially as it does not address maximum wages.
“Could they provide minimum income to workers at the expense of the poorer sector by cancelling subsidies?” Ramadan asked. “Or will they increase the gradual taxes?”
Ramadan also criticised the decision for limiting itself to the public sector. “The true problem exists within the private sector,” Ramadan said. “All the cabinet’s choices are biased towards the rich; we expect the worst from such a decision.”
Ramadan said that the decision’s sole advantage is that it pulls the cabinet out of the vortex of “the war on terrorism” and shifts towards addressing real problems.
“This isn’t a minimum wages law; it’s a minimum income law,” Ramadan said.
Back in 2011, one of the first decisions that Kamal Ganzouri took as Prime Minister was to set a minimum wage. After Ganzouri met with the Cabinet of Ministers on 21 December 2011, the decision was taken: “the Cabinet has approved of setting a maximum wage in the state administrative apparatus which does not exceed the minimum wage by 35 times fold.”