Adwan urges strikers to accept reduced wage hike

File - MP George Adwan arrives at the Parliament in Beirut, Thursday, March 20, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan Friday urged state workers and teachers holding a weeklong strike to protest Parliament’s plan to reduce a wage hike to accept the $1.2 billion pay deal.

“To the public and private sectors, as well as the economic sector and teachers, I urge rationality on approving the salary scale,” Adwan told reporters in Parliament.

“We don’t want to plunge the country into instability,” he stressed. “I call for rationality in dealing with the salary scale issue.”

Adwan, who is a member of the special committee tasked with studying the pay raise issue, said he hoped the committee would present its recommendations to Parliament for a vote by Wednesday.

But observers doubt the recommendations will pass in Parliament next week as lawmakers remain divided over the size of funding for the salary scale.

Economists fear that any salary increase at this juncture would widen the budget deficit and stoke inflation. They also stress that there is no guarantee that the proposed taxes will generate sufficient revenues to cover the cost of the wage hike.

Government offices and public schools closed Friday for the second day of a weeklong strike after lawmakers proposed reducing the wage hike by $700 million.

Some government offices opened their doors despite the Union Coordination Committee’s call for a strike, and private schools have not yet joined the protest.

The UCC has warned that it could escalate the strike, and Thursday it called for boycotting official examinations and holding a “day of rage” next week if Parliament fails to meet its demands.

UCC head Hanna Gharib called for the strike Wednesday after the Parliament committee cut funding from LL2.8 trillion to LL1.8 trillion.

The committee endorsed a number of proposals such as raising the value added tax from 10 percent to 11 percent, increasing customs by 1 percent and increasing taxes on bank profits from 15 to 17 percent.

Meanwhile, Information Ministry workers have called off their strike after receiving assurances from Speaker Nabih Berri, the National News Agency reported.

NNA Director General Laure Sleiman told The Daily Star that Berri had promised to include Information Ministry contract workers’ demand on the agenda of next week’s parliamentary session.

Contract workers at the Information Ministry announced their strike Thursday afternoon, suspending activity at the state-run NNA, Radio Liban and the Center of Studies and Publication.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 10, 2014, on page 4.




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