BEIRUT

Lebanon News

EDL warns of power disruption if protests persist

The headquarters of Electricite Du Liban in Beirut, Lebanon. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Electricite du Liban warned Tuesday that technical, administrative and financial work at the facility would be totally paralyzed, disrupting regular power supply, if contract workers continued to bar EDL employees from reaching their workplace.

The warning came in a statement issued at the end of an exceptional meeting by EDL’s board of directors.

“The continued [forced] closure of the institution will lead to a technical, financial and administrative paralysis in all departments, and inability to secure power supply to the public,” the statement said.

“The institution relieves itself from any responsibility for the damage that could be inflicted on the utility’s headquarters or branches which contain important documents and money to the amount of billions of Lebanese pounds,” the statement added.

EDL contract workers stepped up their protest Tuesday, staging a demonstration outside the Energy and Water Ministry and burning tires in front of EDL’s central building, to denounce a decision giving full-time employment to only a portion of them.

The protest of EDL workers brought traffic to a standstill and left thousands of Lebanese stranded in their cars.

The workers’ committee said it decided to further escalate the protest as of Wednesday by staging an open-ended strike and sit-in that will include putting up tents outside the ministry.

The protesters gathered at the EDL building early Tuesday and then marched to the ministry, shouting slogans rejecting the decision of the EDL board of directors to limit the number of employees provided full-time jobs to 897 out of the 2,000 workers.

Energy Minister Arthur Nazarian had refused to talk to the protesters, saying that he would not negotiate under pressure, political sources told The Daily Star.

The workers’ committee said “contract workers from all Lebanese regions converged at the ministry today to relay a clear message to the minister and all concerned officials that the memo limiting the number of full employment constituted a violation of the law and a massacre of workers’ rights.”

EDL board members, meanwhile, were barred by protesters from entering the public utility’s central building in Corniche al-Nahr, and had to move their pre-scheduled exceptional meeting to the thermal power plant in Zouk Mikael, the sources said.

EDL specified that its organizational needs dictated that only 891 of the 2,000 contract workers be provided full-time employment at the company.

According to EDL, 2,000 workers will take an exam at the Civil Service Council, with the best 891 being hired.

Although they would not be employed inside EDL, the remaining 1,109 workers would keep their contract employment under current job conditions.

The workers’ union rejected EDL’s decision, demanding full-time employment for all its members, and refusing to sit for exams at the Civil Service Council.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 13, 2014, on page 3.

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