BEIRUT: Public sector workers held a protest Friday outside Lebanon’s Labor Ministry, the latest government facility to be targeted in an open-ended strike by unions over wages.
“We will not abandon the streets until the salary raise scale is referred to Parliament,” Nehmeh Mahfoud, the head of the Private Schools Teachers Association, told protesters outside the ministry which is located in Shiyah, south of the capital.
He said the “entire” Cabinet would be held responsible for the strike if Prime Minister Najib Mikati's government failed to forward the wage draft to Parliament this week.
The Union Coordination Committee, a body representing civil servants and teachers, launched the open-ended strike Feb. 19.
A similar protest took place outside the Beirut municipality headquarters in the capital’s city center.
Adnan Kassar, the head of the Economic Committees, which represents bankers and companies in Lebanon, urged UCC leaders Thursday to abandon all forms of street protests.
He also called on them to sit with the government and the private sector to find a way out of the impasse over the salary scale.
An unofficial ministerial meeting Thursday failed to reach a compromise between the government and labor unions, prompting the labor unions to uphold their indefinite strike until they receive a wage hike.
The meeting ended in another standstill as members clashed over Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi’s proposed tax raises to fund the salary increase.
All five ministers who attended the meeting opposed his plan to fund the wage hike, Safadi said, accusing his colleagues of forestalling the issue and giving the false impression that the Finance Ministry was responsible for the delay.
Safadi also suggested paying the wage hike in installments, a pitch which labor unions have already rejected.
Mikati backs Safadi’s proposition, arguing that it contains inflation and avoids a widening budget deficit.