BEIRUT

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EDL says unable to carry out maintenance due to strike

Contract workers erect a tent inside of the headquarters of the Electricite du Liban building in Beirut. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Electricite Du Liban said Thursday it was unable to carry out necessary maintenance work on several major cables across the country due to the ongoing strike by contract workers.

“Given the increase in the number of complaints to the company due to the severe power rationing, it notes that the contract workers and bill collectors have been on strike for three months,” the company said in a statement.

It added that contract workers have been preventing service providers from entering the headquarters located in Mar Mikhael, Beirut, to do their job, which includes maintenance work as per their agreements with the company.

"We apologize again for our inability to serve citizens properly," it said.

The state-run firm also claimed that contract workers prevented workers from bringing in equipment to the headquarters and have shut down several branches completely.

“Technical teams are working under very difficult conditions with the equipment that they were able to bring from EDL to carry out maintenance work and bring back electricity to citizens,” EDL said.

Nearly three months ago, 2,500 EDL contract workers kicked off a nationwide strike to demand permanent employment at Lebanon’s sole electricity provider.

The strike, which saw the participation of the majority of the contract workers, has crippled EDL’s operations with most maintenance work and bill collection having come to a halt.

In its statement Thursday, EDL said there is a malfunction in several cables and they are under maintenance including a major cable feeding Ashrafieh, a major cable for Tallet Khayyat and the UNESCO premises as well as in Khalde and Boushrieh.

The firm also said that the cable breakdown was accompanied by other malfunctions in low and medium tension wires in various Lebanese areas, which “deprive citizens from electricity for long hours.”

The statement noted that the scheduled 21-hour power rationing in the Beirut Central district is still the same and that repeated electricity cuts are due to malfunctions.

Meanwhile, Energy Minister Gebran Bassil slammed the strike by contract workers and said that street protests had forced Parliament to pass a bill employing the contract workers full-time at the company.

Earlier this month, Parliament endorsed a bill to employ the contract workers full-time at EDL but the draft legislation is waiting for the approval of Parliament’s Secretariat.

Christian parties, including the Free Patriotic Movement, argue that employing contract workers with the state-run company without a proper mechanism would cause a sectarian imbalance in the public sector.

“There are objectors on the street forcing Parliament to legislate the way they want and this is a dangerous precedent,” Bassil told reporters in a news conference at the ministry’s headquarters.

He also said that what is happening is an organized plan to spread chaos inside state institutions.

“If we continue this way and the blackout happens, who will bear the responsibility for the chaos?” he asked.

The minister also said that there was around LL200 billion worth of bills that the company was unable to collect preventing the firm from carrying out maintenance work and paying the salaries of its employees.

 

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