BEIRUT: Employees of several state-owned companies went on strike Tuesday to protest their exclusion from the recently endorsed salary scale.
Their strike came as a local newspaper revealed raises in the salaries of Lebanon’s prime minister, president, speaker and MPs amounting to LL9 billion ($6 million) annually.
The cautionary strike was called by the Union of Independent Public Authorities and Companies, which is comprised of the Litany River Authority, Electricite du Kadisha, Electricite du Liban and the Public Transportation and Railways Department.
“We call [on politicians] to stop tampering with the citizens’ livelihood and discontinue making incomplete and ill-considered decisions,” said Charbel Saleh, head of the association at a news conference at the EDL headquarters in Mar Mikhael, Beirut.
“How can the government ignore us in the new salary scale and pass salary increases for some employees and exclude others, who are the backbone of the state?” he asked.
Saleh urged the government to amend the scale and include employees of state-run companies or face further strikes. “The cautionary strike today is the start of a long series of protests that could paralyze state-run companies.”
According to Saleh, state-owned companies are an inseparable part of the public sector and awarding them salary raises in line with other public employees is legally binding.
He added that strikes and protests would continue on a weekly basis every Wednesday and Thursday during the upcoming weeks.
Meanwhile, As-Safir newspaper said Lebanon’s top ranking officials would each receive an increase between LL5.5 million and LL7 million on their monthly salaries, a raise amounting to more than 100 percent compared to their current wages.
In terms of the public sector wage hike, category one employees will receive LL2.9 million; LL1.7 million would be granted for category two employees; LL940,000 for category three employees; and LL210,000 for the lowest ranking employees, according to the newspaper.
Public high-school teachers will receive around LL1 million in raises while public elementary-school teachers will receive LL789,000.
The new salary scale for the public sector was heavily criticized Friday by both the private sector and the civil servants association.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati said taxes to finance the salary scale would not affect the majority of citizens.