Experts: Temp workers lack basic rights

Upon graduating college, Yasser Mohamed sent his resume to several prospective employers. After being hired by a government institution one year later, he got married and had two children.

Mohamed didn’t mind that he was only a temporary worker, or "temp"–as long as he wasn’t abruptly laid off, as a number of his colleagues had been. But after seven years of hard work, he, too, found himself jobless when it was his turn to be sacked.

Mohamed’s is only one of thousands of cases of temporary laborers in Egypt, who are not only underpaid, but also lack insurance in case of injury or death. According to experts, temporary workers in Egypt have plenty of duties, but enjoy little in the way of rights.

"In both the public and private sectors, there are more temporary workers than permanent ones," said Kamal Abbas, director of the Center for Trade Unions and Worker Services. "Many temps are compelled to accept layoffs and take some minimal compensation in hopes of finding another job later," he explained, pointing out that they were seldom provided with social or medical insurance.

"The private sector in particular often employs workers without any papers at all," Abbas continued. "So when a problem occurs, they can’t prove they had ever worked at these companies."

"What’s more, temporary workers don’t receive any training to improve their skills," he added. "This makes it difficult for them to find new jobs once they’ve been sacked."

Mostafa Bassiouny, researcher at the Cairo-based Socialist Studies Center, attributed the problem to Law 12 of 2003, which allows companies to maintain workers on a temporary basis even if their contracts are renewed for several consecutive years.

"Employees of the cabinet’s Information Decision and Support centers have all been hired on a temporary basis, even though many have worked there for more than a decade," said Bassiouny. "Therefore, they won’t receive pensions when they’re asked to leave."

Economy expert Magdi Sobhy, for his part, believes temporary employment can represent a good opportunity for the rising numbers of graduates that enter the local labor market every year. "It’s better than joining the ranks of the unemployed," he said.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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