Striking BBC Cairo staff blames broadcaster of ‘gross discrimination’

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A representative of BBC staff in Cairo on a three-day strike for equal pay with colleagues across the Middle East accused the broadcaster of “gross discrimination” Tuesday. The North African country is in the midst of spiraling economic crises, with inflation running at a record high and the currency depreciating.

According to Khaled el-Balshy, the strikers’ spokesperson and head of Egypt’s journalism union, 75 staff members from the broadcaster’s Cairo bureau are demanding to be paid in dollars or receive a significant pay rise in the local currency, like other BBC employees in the region, including Beirut and Istanbul.

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The union leader said the disparity amounted to “gross discrimination against the Cairo staff.” The walkout began Monday and is set to finish Wednesday.

The BBC’s office in London said it had been planning on “increasing salaries by 27 percent between March and July” to mitigate inflation and was continuing “to engage with them (the staff) to find a resolution whilst acting within our market pay policy which is applied consistently across” the broadcaster.

El-Balshy said, the 27 percent pay rise was inadequate, given Egypt’s economic situation.

Over the past year, the Egyptian pound has lost over 50 percent of its value against the dollar, with annual inflation reaching 36.8 percent in June, up from 33.7 percent recorded in May. The economy is reeling from years of government austerity measures, the coronavirus pandemic and fallout from the Ukraine war.
Egypt is a top wheat importer from Russia and Ukraine.

The Associated Press previously said the BBC’s Istanbul staff were paid in dollars, based on information from the strikers’ representative. He later clarified that they were paid in Turkish lira, something that was later confirmed by the BBC’s press office.

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