Letter to the Editor: Stop the Subcontracting!

Earlier this week, the University administration announced that its plans to replace the full-time housekeeping staff with two subcontracting companies.

While the University claims the decision is a much-needed cost saving measure, this move should be seen as destroying a critical part of our campus life.

This decision will disrupt the livelihoods of over 170 workers who see the University not only as a place of work, but also as part of their identity and a path towards upward mobility.

And so, we need to look at the morality of this decision and what we are about to lose as a community because of it.

This requires us to trace the history of AUC’s workforce and their contributions to our day-to-day lives; we need to look past the University’s bottom line savings.

In many ways, the story of the workers is the story of AUC’s move to New Cairo.

Needing an expanded workforce to service the brand-new, upscale campus, the University originally hired workers from a subcontracting firm called COMPASS Egypt.

However, by 2010 new regulations enforcing the Egyptian Labor Law (No. 12 of 2003) barred the use of subcontracting by large employers, such as AUC.

In response to these changes, the University hired many of the workers directly, integrating them into its payroll.

The administration now wants to return to the days of large-scale subcontracting. This will be a great loss not only to the workers, but also to the University as a whole, to which they have greatly contributed.

For example, in the Fall of 2011, students and workers voiced their grievances over increased student tuition, as well as low pay and poor working conditions.

United, the students and workers dealt directly with the University, coming to a comprehensive agreement with that helped improve university conditions for both parties.

Aside from the monetary issues, the administration also created the Office of the Ombuds to act as an impartial and independent mediator in campus disputes.

While this position came out of a very contentious time for the University, the outcome has been improved institutional support for the whole AUC community.

If the workers had been subcontracted, and therefore, only indirectly associated with the University, the students would have been on their own.

If this were the case, it is unlikely that they could have produced this important institutional change.

The importance of the workers to university life does not end in 2011, nor is it restricted to labor disputes.

When I was an M.A. student from 2011-2013, the workers would organize annual soccer tournaments with the administration.

This was a time in which the workers could mingle with administrators, creating an openness that will no longer exist if the housekeeping staff no longer works for the University itself.

An even greater loss for the community will be the loss of connection the workers have with the faculty and students.

In 2013, the second annual soccer tournament was held in honor of Omar Mohsen, and AUCian who was tragically murdered, along with 72 others during the Port Said Massacre.

If the housekeeping staff becomes subcontracted, they will no longer see AUC as a place of employment, but merely as a site of work.

No longer feeling like part of the community, we will lose the mutual support that the workers have shown us.

Although the workers are often overlooked when people think about the University, they have consistently shown a commitment to maintaining its smooth functioning.

Each one of us benefits from their labor when we enjoy the campus’s pristine facilities. We owe it to them to reflect on how their lives will be affected:

Subcontracting will destroy the hope of upward mobility for over 170 employees.

Gone too will be the stability that a contract with the AUC provides; no longer will they have access to the University Emergency Fund, access to arbitration by the University Ombuds, and educational opportunities for themselves and their families alike.

This is not to mention the daily hardships faced as many will be forced to undergo unemployment or take pay ttts.

I have no doubt that the devaluation of the Egyptian Pound has hurt the University; it has indeed hurt every Egyptian.

But there is a question we need to ask ourselves: can find solutions to the problems of our University by harming the part of our community that is, in fact, the most vulnerable to Egypt’s current economic crisis?

My answer is a firm no. And in doing so, we will not only be hurting the workers, but also the entire community.

Derek Ludovici
AUC Alumni (Class of 2013)
M.A. Sociology-Anthropology

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