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EGYPT: Court orders government to raise minimum wage

October 27, 2010 |  8:03 am


An Egyptian administrative court has upheld an earlier verdict that forces the government to set monthly minimum wage at 1,200 pounds ($207 in U.S. dollars) for public and private sector employees, most of whom earn between 200 and 500 pounds. 

The verdict, which was announced Tuesday, comes amid Egyptians' anger over soaring prices of basic food commodities, which sparked a number of minor demonstrations as inflation rates hit 11.7% last month. Employees within the public sector, who form 22% of Egypt's total workforce, have continuously voiced their dismay over their wages. The last official minimum wage was set in 1984 at 35 pounds a month ($6).

Labor activist Nagy Rashad and lawyer Khaled Ali, both members of the Labor for Change movement, filed a lawsuit earlier this year demanding that the government raise minimum wages. The court ruled in favor of the pair in March before the government appealed.

Cabinet spokesman Magdy Radi commented on Tuesday's verdict by stressing that the Egyptian government respects judicial rulings and will determine its action after studying the court's decision. The ruling National Democratic Party, credited with Egypt's recent years of economic growth, has not been able to overcome inflation and low wages and is under increasing public pressure.

 Ali said that he expects the government to stall the implementation of the verdict. If so, Rashad said his movement would likely file a lawsuit against Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif. Other lawmakers warned that the government may not be able to legally maneuver around the judgment.

"Court rulings should be definitively enforced, but the government has its own administrations and workers who are experts in tilting court judgments," says Essam Sultan, a lawyer and member of Al Wasat political party.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: A demonstration against low wages outside Egypt's parliament in May. Credit: AFP / Getty Images