Dozens of reward preachers in the Ministry of Religious Endowments who work without permanent contracts and the attendant financial security protested Tuesday in front of the Press Syndicate, demanding to be permanently hired.
Reward preachers are reserve staff in the ministry who are given employment and are paid on an on-call basis that often leaves them without any degree of surety as to their financial situation.
They called upon President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to “intervene in their dispute with the Endowments Ministry”, vowing they might hold a general strike if their demands are not met.
The preachers said they are different from hired preachers. “We are on call. If there is a governorate or a city that is missing a preacher to lead prayers and manage the mosques, we are called upon by the ministries,” the preachers said.
The protesters estimate that there are approximately 3,000 to 4,000 subjected to these precarious conditions, working under contracts of indefinite duration or without contracts at all.
The ministry however argued that they cannot be hired unless “there is a competition or a selection where the distinguished preachers are chosen.”
The preachers said they receive around 140 EGP for leading prayers and are not provided with benefits given to hired preachers. “Some of us have served as preachers for more than ten years,” they said.
Recently, the ministry raised the salaries of reward preachers who serve in cities near the country’s borders, such as Sinai, Marsa Matruh, and Siwa, while vowing to raise the salaries of the rest of the sector in time.
The protesters marched from the Press Syndicate in downtown Cairo to Al-Fath mosque in Ramsis. The demonstrators said they had received permission to protest from the Ministry of Interior.
The majority of mosques in Egypt are controlled by the Endowments Ministry. In every mosque, a preacher and a group of workers are appointed to administrate the mosque, hold prayers, and enforce the ministry policies.
Despite being one of the most powerful and well financed official religious entities in Egypt, several labour sectors in the Endowments Ministry have expressed insufficient working conditions.
Last July, workers at the Ministry of Religious Endowments staged a protest in front of the cabinet and demanded more economic rights, including health and social insurance. Ministry workers are different from employees since they are responsible for cleaning and maintenance, as well as administering ministry-registered mosques.