By Maram Alabbasi
Temporary, contracted workers at Sana’a University are demanding the minimum wage set by law, YR 20,000 a month, less than 100 USD.
“My salary is YR 13,000,” Said Abdurrahman Alsana’ani, an administrative contractor at Sana’a University. Workers have called on the university’s president to officially hire them and to raise their wages to YR20,000. A sit-in has been staged in front of the president’s building on-campus since 28 March.
The law states that contractors may be under training for six months before employers are legally obliged to hire them. There are currently 600 contracted employees at Sana’a University; some have been at the university for up to 14 years without an official offer of employment.
“I’ve been working at the university as a contractor for more than six years. I know two employees who had worked here for a much shorter time, they’ve been hired because they people higher up in the administration,” said Raja’a Almedwahi.
Workers first organized and collectively made their demands in 2008. Former Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Mojaoar stated in 2009 that 200 contractors were to be officially hired per year. Additionally, the prime minister’s statement also said that the university would officially hire the 600 contractors it already employed. No budget was set for the hiring, and workers say the administration has failed to come anywhere close to that target.
“The prime minister’s office issued many statements concerning contractors. None of their promises have been fulfilled,” Alsana’ani said. “We are essential in the educational process at Sana’a University, we do the same work as official workers, but without the same rights,” said Almedwahi.
A committee was formed by the university president to respond to the demonstrating workers. “The president’s move gives us hope,” Almedwahi said. The pay rate for a worker with a high school diploma is YR 13,000, for a college graduate it is YR 15,000, and for those without any degree, the wage is YR 9000.
“These wages are not enough for transportation.” Contractor Mustafa Aljaloob, employed at the university since 2008, called on rights groups to take note of their plight. “We are being exploited. We deserve fair wages and our full rights, just as our colleagues,” he said.
“We are human beings, not machines.” Majeed Alkhetri, a former contractor until last year, when he was officially hired, said his salary went from YR 9150 to YR 31,000. “The government has neglected these contractors. They’re demanding the most basic rights.”