NewsBBC Cairo staff on three-day strike over unequal pay

BBC Cairo staff on three-day strike over unequal pay

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BBC staff in the Egyptian capital Cairo are staging a three-day strike to protest against what they say is unequal pay compared to colleagues in other countries in the region, as Egypt grapples with a dire economic crisis.

“The BBC staff in Cairo are staging a three-day strike, from 17 to 19 July, to protest against their low salaries and deteriorating living conditions,” read a statement published on Monday and issued by Khaled el-Balshy, head of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate and the strikers’ spokesperson. “BBC journalists in Cairo also express their deepest concern towards what they see as systematic discrimination against them, from the management in London, in terms of payment policies.”

The work stoppage comes after a previous strike held on June 14 over unequal pay led to no results, the union said.

Since March 2022, read the statement, BBC staff’s wages have lost nearly half of their value due to the devaluation of the Egyptian pound.

Egypt is grappling with an economic crisis with about a third of its 105-million population living in poverty, according to government figures. The annual inflation rate reached 36.8 percent in June, up from 33.7 percent the previous month, show data from the state-run Central Agency for Mobilization and Statistics.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brought about a further blow to the country’s economy, which is the world’s largest importer of wheat, over half of which comes from Russia, and a significant percentage from Ukraine. As in the rest of the world, the conflict has caused a price spike in many sectors in Egypt, including food and medical services.

El-Balshy said in the statement that the BBC’s Cairo team has repeatedly asked their management to adjust their salaries to reflect the economic reality of the country. The union’s leader also said that strikers may consider legal action and extending the walkout if their demands are not met.

“But our demands were either ignored, or meager increases were offered,” read the statement, adding that similar requests have been met after protests by staff in other bureaus.

Responding to the strike, the BBC said that it recognised that the economic situation in Egypt has had an impact on its staff.

“We are increasing salaries by 27 percent between March and July this year to mitigate the levels of high inflation in the country,” the broadcaster told Al Jazeera via email.

“We are disappointed staff have taken strike action and continue to engage with them to find a resolution whilst acting within our market pay policy which is applied consistently across the BBC, globally,” it added.

The BBC’s bureau editor in Cairo, Ashraf Madbouli, declined to comment, referring any questions to el-Balshy.

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