CAIRO: Lobby group Doctors Without Rights have described wage increases promised by the government as “untrue.
Government representatives met with head of the Doctors’ Syndicate Hamdy El-Sayyed on Tuesday to discuss doctors’ continued demands for wage increases.
According to the syndicate’s website, LE 400 million have been allocated to “overhauling doctors’ working and pay conditions and to the syndicate’s demands for improved pay for doctors in the coming two years.
News website Masrawy.com quotes Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, who took part in Tuesday’s meeting, as saying that 295,000 doctors, technicians and other Ministry of Health employees will benefit from the total LE 850 million which will have been allotted to health sector employees by the end of the current financial year.
El-Gabaly is quoted as saying that the average salary of doctors will be increased from LE 700 per month to LE 1,379.
He emphasized that the increase is above the 30 percent increase for public sector workers promised by President Hosni Mubarak at the end of April.
Four days after the presidential promises of salary increases, the government announced steep increases in the price of fuel which economists said would increase inflation and cancel out the benefits of the wage increases.
Dr. Mona Mina, one of the leaders of the Doctors Without Rights lobby group, questioned the credibility of the promised pay increases.
“If doctors are going to receive the LE 1,789 promised this means that roughly LE 800 will be needed for each doctor, Mina told Daily News Egypt.
“There are some 100,000 doctors employed by the Ministry of Health, which means that LE 80 million per month will be needed to fund the increases. This is much less than the amount the government has pledged.
“This is not the basic pay increase that we have been calling for, this is something imaginary. If the government is serious about these rises let it explain to us in detail which parts of our salaries will increase, she added.
“At the last general assembly meeting of the Tanta Syndicate, branch members voted for a LE 300 compensation for occupational disease for doctors.
“We have not yet received this, and would prefer that we be guaranteed this small sum rather than be promised a bigger pay increase which we never actually receive, she explained.
The government has also announced increased allowances for doctors holding diplomas (LE 75 per month) and for fellowship members (LE 150).
“We have repeatedly called for allowances for diploma-holders and for fellowship members but reject the principle that payment of the allowance be linked to an annual report prepared by hospital administration, Mina told Daily News Egypt.
Doctors Without Rights have continuously called for a minimum basic wage of LE 1,000 for doctors, rejecting previous government offers of increases through allowance payments which they say are unreliable and subject to the arbitrary decisions of hospital management.
The Doctors’ Syndicate has been inconsistent in its attitude towards the lobby group.
Syndicate leadership initially endorsed the symbolic two-hour strike unanimously voted for by the syndicate’s general assembly earlier this year before unilaterally “postponing it after Prime Minister Nazif said during a radio interview that strikes by public sector workers are illegal.
Doctors Without Rights have launched a legal case to prove the legality of a strike by doctors.
In March, members of the Doctors Without Rights held a week-long protest on the steps of the Doctors’ Syndicate in protest against the decision to postpone the strike and renewing their demands for a basic wage.
Syndicate leaders ignored the protest, dismissing the lobby group as an unrepresentative minority.
At the tumultuous syndicate emergency general assembly held in March the syndicate’s leadership decided that protest action would be organized on April 23, ignoring doctors’ calls for it to coincide with nationwide strike action planned for April 6 and dismissing requests for strike action.
The general assembly held on May 9 voted to “wait for the syndicate board to decide on the timing of protests to be held during June to coincide with the People’s Assembly state budget discussions.
The board failed to set a date for the protests, prompting Doctors Without Rights to organize another protest on Sunday on the steps of the syndicate in which Secretary-General Essam El-Erian took part.
Daily News Egypt asked El-Erian why he had not taken part in earlier protests organized by Doctors Without Rights, specifically the March week-long protest on the steps of the syndicate.
He replied that he was in fact there and had taken part, and said that “Doctors Without Rights and the syndicate are working for the same goal.
El-Erian told Daily News Egypt that he thinks the government’s two-stage plan to increase doctors’ wages and improve conditions is an adequate response to doctors’ demands “in principle.
“We will have to wait and see however whether this is just talk, or whether doctors end up with more money in their pockets, he said.
For her part, Mina welcomed the presence of syndicate leadership at the protest but called on it to do more.
“We of course welcome Dr El-Erian’s participation in the protest, and thank him for what is a great gesture.
“It is not, however, enough that the syndicate take part in one protest – it must do more.