CAIRO: Employees of the Omar Effendi department store continued their sit-in for the third day on Thursday outside the department store s Downtown Cairo headquarters in protest at alleged wage discrimination between them and recently-employed staff.
Mohamed El-Seessy, an auditor with the company, asked, “How is it justifiable that I earn LE 350 when I have two bachelors degrees and a diploma, and someone with one bachelor s degree earns LE 1,500? If you tested us you d find that I m better than him.
El-Seessy alleges that Omar Effendi s owning company, Saudi Arabia s Anwal – which bought the previously state-owned company in 2007 – plans to sell off the company s buildings, often located on prime real estate locations.
El-Seessy says that by making conditions intolerable for workers who have been employed for many years and forcing them to leave, the sell-off process will be made easier.
The three workers Daily News Egypt spoke to, had been with the company for between 10 and 20 years, but earn no more than LE 400 per month.
“We want equality between us and the new employees. There is a huge difference between us and them. Ask any of them how much they make and they ll tell you LE 1,600. They re doing this to make us fed up; so we ll leave, Abdel Rahim Abdel Rahim said.
“We also no longer have buses to take us to and from work so we now rely on public transport. We re fined half a day s pay for every minute we are late. When we asked for an extra LE 150 to cover public transport expenses they refused.
Abdel Rahim alleges that when workers demanded higher pay and their profit share, they were told to submit resignations and sign new contracts in order to make it easier for the company to subsequently end their employment.
Workers criticize the company s trade union, which they say is “in league with company management.
Daily News Egypt attempted to contact Omar Effendi s CFO Sherif Sobhy for comment but he did not answer his telephone up to press time.
Originally established in 1856, Omar Effendi is Egypt s largest retail chain with 82 outlets nationwide. In February 2007, Anwal purchased a 90 percent stake in the company for a reported $102.5 million plus the assumption of all outstanding debts. The Egyptian government maintains the remaining 10 percent of the company.
The sale was condemned by its opponents who believed that the chain was worth at least double the amount it was sold for.