BEIRUT: Civil servants and public school teachers protested for the fifth day Saturday over the Cabinet’s failure to pass the controversial revised salary scale, vowing further escalation next week.
Leaders of the Union Coordination Committee, which represents public school teachers and civil servants, held an open-ended sit-in near the Value Added Tax Department.
The UCC head, Hanna Gharib, warned that next week will witness even more expanded protest movements in a bid to escalate pressure on the Cabinet.
“The pace will quicken next week. The strikes and protests will not only include the public sector but other sectors as well,” Gharib told the gathering outside the Finance Ministry.
He also said that a meeting will be held at 3:00 p.m. later during the day in order to set the escalatory measures that will be taken next week.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati insists that the government will not rush the referral of a salary increase draft law to Parliament before the Cabinet can secure the funds needed to cover the pay raise.
Gharib reiterated his call on Mikati to validate the new salary scale and refer it to Parliament.
“The ball is now in Mikati’s court and we urge the Cabinet to end its stalling and meet our demands,” he said.
Gharib also accused members of the government earlier this week of seeking to abort a sit-in near the VAT building last Wednesday, but stressed that these attempts had failed.
The union leader reiterated that no compromise on their demands will be accepted and said the salary hike should be paid in one go.
“We will not accept to get out pay rises in installments as some officials are trying to offer. We want all of our rights at once,” he said.
For his part, Nehme Mahfoud, the head of the Association of Private School Teachers, said that all schools, of both the public and private sectors, will close doors Monday, urging educational institutions and parents to cooperate with the UCC.
“Private schools will all be closed Monday and we urge parents not to send their children to school,” he said.
Mahfoud described his group’s protest as “civilized” and said similar protests will go on until the demands of workers are met.
“Our strike is civilized and we will resort to all means of protest until the new wage scale is referred to Parliament,” he said.
Most government offices suspended operations Friday, part of pressures on the Cabinet to take action on the salary scale.
Other sit-ins were also held through the week outside different official buildings across Lebanon, with still no solution to the workers’ crisis which has repeatedly disturbed the country’s official operations and school activity.