BEIRUT: Lebanon's Cabinet failed Monday to refer a new public sector salary scale to Parliament despite pressure from the Union Coordination Committee to resolve the issue without further delay.
Speaking to reporters following the Cabinet session, Labor Minister Salim Jreissati said ministers agreed not to separate the issue of the salary scale in principle and the means to fund it.
"As a result of discussions, the Cabinet decided against separating the issue of salary scare and its financial necessities because they make a unified package of measures,” he said.
Finalizing the draft for the salary scale, Jreissati said, should be accompanied by “administrative and financial reform measures” that take into account people's interests and the basics of the national economy.
Jreissati also said that Cabinet will continue discussing means to secure funds for the public sector wage hike.
Earlier in the day, the UCC staged a sit-in near the Presidential Palace in Baabda, where ministers were meeting to discuss salary increase.
Protesters gathered on the road leading to Baabda Palace to protest against the Cabinet’s failure to refer the draft law of the new wage scale to Parliament as President Michel Sleiman was convening the session.
The issue of the salary increase was on top of Monday’s Cabinet session agenda as the UCC threatene4d to hold further strikes and protest movements if the bill is not adopted in Parliament.
“The UCC will call for a strike on Wednesday in the event the bill is not referred to Parliament during today’s [Cabinet] session,” the head of the Secondary Schools Teachers Association Hanna Gharib told the Kataeb-run Voice of Lebanon radio station Monday.
“The decision must be referred as an urgent draft law to Parliament and not through installments,” Gharib said, referring to a suggestion by Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh that the wage hikes be funded in a number of installments over the next three to five years.
For his part, Nehmeh Mahfoud, the head of the Association of Private Schools Teachers, lashed out at Prime Minister Najib Mikati, accusing him of exerting pressure on the UCC through the country’s Economic Committees.
“Mikati is using the Economic Committees to exert pressure on the UCC,” Mahfoud, who also spoke to Voice of Lebanon, said.
Mahfoud added that officials had not contacted UCC representatives last week over their demands.
“No official has contacted us in the last couple of days to negotiate our demands,” he said.
Prior to the session, Sleiman held a closed meeting with Mikati.
In late November the UCC staged a number of protests and general strikes, warning to take further steps in the event the Cabinet failed to meet their demands.
Mikati has repeatedly argued that the delay in referring the bill to Parliament is due to the lack of resources to fund the increase of salaries.
According to Mikati, the Cabinet is discussing means to fund the salaries before adopting the new wage scale.
However, the UCC accuses Mikati of manipulating teachers and procrastinating to avoid meeting their demands.