BEIRUT: Challenging the Union Coordination Committee's decision to boycott the grading of official exams, Education Minister Elias Bou Saab made a suspended decision Wednesday to give passing certificates to all students who applied.
“I have made a decision ... to give statements to everyone,” Bou Saab said, in a news conference following his meeting with the “educational officers,” who are made up of unionists representing different political parties in the ministry.
The UCC retorted by cautioning against the “catastrophic” setbacks that such a move will deal to the educational system in Lebanon for many years to come, while commending unionists of political parties for unanimously rejecting it.
In a statement issued later Wednesday the UCC stressed that passing the salary ranks and scale in Parliament “is the shortest way for the students to get their official diplomas.”
“The union is not considering in any way to back down on its decision to boycott the grading of the exams,” the statement said.
“The demand to suspend the boycott of grading the exams is tantamount to asking the UCC to commit suicide,” the statement added.
The UCC called on Bou Saab to deploy extra efforts to push for the adoption of the salary scale, stressing that “there is no alternative to the official certificate.”
Bou Saab told the news conference that “each [student] who applied to the [official exams] has his application registered in the ministry. According to these applications, we will give the certificates.”
He said he will suspend his decision for 48 hours upon the request of the representatives.
The minister said his decision came after the UCC insisted on continuing to boycott grading the exams until the Parliament passes the ranks and salaries scale.
He criticized the “UCC’s insistence on their demands regardless of the consequences,” and said he expected harsh criticism from the unions because of his decision. However, he said this step will avoid causing harm to students and will put an end to the procrastination of finding a solution.
“I decided to stop prolonging the crisis for grade 9 and 12, and to avoid any further disputes with parents and students,” he said.
“I don’t care if they will criticize me or not,” he added. “What I care about is that these students will be able to enroll in universities next year.”
Bou Saab said he had made a mistake earlier when he said that he would not give the statements to students.
“I did that to protect the most important pressure card for the UCC,” he said. He also said he would “make the same mistake again” if he went back in time.
“I have contacted all the relevant politicians in the country and updated them on the arrangements I will be making,” he said. “The political cover for the decision is already there.”
His news conference came just after his meeting with the union representatives - on whose request he delayed implementing his decision - who informed Bou Saab on their commitment to the UCC’s demands and decisions.
However, the minister said that he was proven right in response to a tough question he placed before the representatives.
“I asked them if they accept that the students pay the price for the disagreement between the UCC and the politicians,” Bou Saab said. “They all said that they don’t accept, except for two who abstained.”
Due to the political deadlock in the country the Parliament is not expected to pass the ranks and salaries scale before at least one month, according to Bou Saab.
“Some are talking about one month, some about two,” he said. “And many are expecting that the scale will be postponed until the election of a new Parliament.”
The UCC had been rallying for the wage hike for three years now, calling for a 121 percent increase in salaries, as well as the enhancement of other benefits for civil servants.
Parliament had failed to pass the hike due to disagreement and lack of quorum, and recent comments by lawmakers from all parties confirmed that the draft law will not be passed anytime soon.