BEIRUT: Civil servants took to the streets Wednesday to pressure politicians to meet their “full demands” as public offices and schools went on a nationwide strike a day after Parliament failed to pass the wage hike draft law.
Protesters rallied outside the Education Ministry headquarters in Beirut, urging once again lawmakers to stop stalling a 121 percent increase on their pays.
Similar sit-ins were held near government headquarters in different cities, including Tripoli in north Lebanon and Zahle in east Lebanon. Another demonstration was also held near Baabda's Presidential Palace to coincide with a Cabinet session.
Beirut's protesters expressed their anger at the lawmakers, who decided Tuesday to form a new committee to study the proposal again over the next two weeks.
“We will not back off the streets until our full demands are met," one of the protesters told al-Jadeed television. "The lawmakers should stop waste in the state’s Treasury and cut their own salaries before objecting to our demands,”
“We will not back down,” he added.
MP Qassem Hashem, from Speaker Nabih Berri’s Development and Liberation bloc, joined the protesters in Beirut and said his bloc supports the demands of the public sector workers.
“We were not procrastinating; we were calling for the endorsement of civil servants' demands, but you all saw what happened,” the lawmaker said in reference to the session a day earlier.
“What happened was part of the democratic process and we cannot do anything about that, but we vow to stand by the civil servants until they get what they want,” he added.
Sixty-five lawmakers voted Tuesday for a proposal put forward by the head of the Future bloc, Fouad Siniora, to form a new parliamentary committee to reconsider the draft-law, estimated to cost the state over $1.6 billion. Last Friday, the parliamentary joint committees finalized a version of the draft law after over a year of debate.
The proposal was supported by the Future, Lebanese Forces, Change and Reform bloc and opposed by Berri’s Development and Liberation bloc, Hezbollah lawmakers and others.
The decision stirred the anger of the Union Coordination Committee who called for the strike and slammed lawmakers for failing to meet the demands of public workers.