Civil servants reject plan to increase working hours

BEIRUT: Civil servants waving placards during the protest march.

BEIRUT: Dozens of civil servants marched toward the value added tax building Wednesday to denounce the amendments made to the original salary scale bill and threatened to escalate the situation if officials shelved their demands.

Most government offices, according to organizers, observed a brief strike to express their rejection of the amendments made by MPs to the 121 percent salary hike proposal.

Last week, Parliament, which met at the request of Speaker Nabih Berri, slashed the funding of the salary scale from $1.9 billion to $1.2 billion and adopted some tax measures to finance the package.

But the lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on a proposal to increase the VAT ratio from 10 percent to 11 percent and also tax the developers of illegal sea resorts that were built during the Civil War.

Berri adjourned the discussion of the bill until May 27.

The civil servants also rejected a law passed by Parliament that calls for increasing the office hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a lunch break from 2-3 p.m.

Addressing the protesters, the spokesman for the civil servants Mahmoud Haidar threatened to escalate the strikes and demonstrations after May 27 if Parliament failed to pass all of the Union Coordination Committee’s demands.

“For three years we have been in the streets to press for our demands but no one paid any attention to us. No one asked how money was wasted or who was responsible for the high inflation in the country,” he said.

He also rejected increasing the office hours in public departments.

“We are also applying taxes on the poor under the pretext of funding the salary scale,” Haidar said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 22, 2014, on page 5.




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