BEIRUT: The Union Coordination Committee is gearing up for sit-ins and strikes on April 29 to press MPs to endorse the controversial new salary scale for government employees and schoolteachers.
In a show of support, the General Labor Confederation, which represents private sector workers, has threatened to strike on April 30. The GLC said it would hold a meeting on April 28 to approve the strike.
The GLC called for higher taxes on profits of banks and companies and heavy fines for those who built hotels and resorts on government-owned lands along the coast.
It reiterated demands to hire all of Electricite du Liban’s contractual workers and to reform the National Social Security Fund. But the GLC rejected any taxes that would affect the poor and middle class.
A special parliamentary committee tasked with studying the salary scale is expected to make new recommendations to finance the pay hike within a week.
Labor union representatives met Wednesday with Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi to raise the issue of the high cost of living. According to the representatives, the purchasing power of the average Lebanese has fallen by 50 percent in the past two years, noting that the salary increase in 2012 did little to offset the high cost of living.
The business community and some economists have warned that approving the 121 percent salary increase would further exacerbate the economic slowdown and widen the budget deficit if revenues are not secured to finance the salary scale.
The International Monetary Fund has advised the Lebanese authorities not to increase expenditures haphazardly, stressing that the budget deficit is coming under increasing pressure.
It is unlikely that the salary scale issue will be resolved until after the election of a new president and the formation of a new government.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 24, 2014, on page 5.