BEIRUT: Most government offices across Lebanon remained shut and public school teachers maintained their protest over a pay raise as an open-ended strike went into its fourth day Friday.
Hundreds of public employees, who accuse Prime Minister Najib Mikati of stalling the approval of a wage hike under pressure from the private sector, rallied outside the Agriculture Ministry in the Bir Hasan neighborhood of Beirut before midday Friday.
From there, the protesters headed toward the building housing the offices of the Economic Committees, a leading private sector group chaired by Adnan Kassar, in nearby Cite Sportive.
Strict security measures were taken around the Agriculture Ministry and the Economics Committees headquarters during the protests.
The Union Economic Committees, which groups public school teachers and civil servants, threatened Friday to escalate its action.
“Tomorrow we will stage an indefinite sit-in outside the TVA headquarters,” UCC head Hanna Gharib told protesters rallying outside the Agriculture Ministry.
He said the union will hold what Gharib termed an “important” meeting later Friday to decide on the next steps.
“The meeting this afternoon is to discuss a stepped up action plan starting Monday that will include a sit-in outside the Central Bank and nearby ministries including the Information Ministry, Tourism, Interior and the Chamber of Commerce,” Gharib said.
The Central Bank is located on the main Hamra thoroughfare.
Workers at Beirut Municipality also took part in the sit-in.
Mikati has maintained that the government will not rush the referral of a salary increase draft law to Parliament before the Cabinet can secure the necessary funds.
There is growing concern, however, that the disruption of work in government departments could affect the revenues of the treasury, most notably the Value Added Tax Department (TVA), which generates more than $2 billion in income each year.