BEIRUT:Lebanon will remain paralyzed, with no solution to crippling public sector strikes, until officials are willing to work together to reactivate the government’s work, Prime Minister Tammam Salam said.
“The solution to resolving the problems of teachers and EDL workers is for the political parties to come to an agreement to facilitate the country’s affairs,” Salam said in remarks published Wednesday in An-Nahar. "When this agreement happens, we can elect a new president and hold the parliamentary elections."
According to Salam, such a political advancement would lead to the reactivation of the Cabinet’s full executive authority.
“But the lack of such consensus paralyzes the legislative authority and hinders the work of the executive authority,” he said. “Among the key [socio-economic] matters we are facing is the ranks and salaries scale; passing it would be a breakthrough for the country.”
Maintaining pressure on politicians over the salary scale, public administration employees observed a nationwide strike Wednesday in response to a call by the Union Coordination Committee, while protesting teachers staged a sit-in near Parliament to press for adoption of a new salary scale.
Employees in public institutions in Aley district east of Beirut and in the Metn area, northeast of the capital, did not report to work in line with UCC’s strike call, the National News Agency said.
The head of the syndicate of private school teachers, Nemeh Mahfoud, decried what he called the “disgraceful treatment” of teachers pushing for their rights during a protest staged Tuesday outside the Eduction Ministry.
“We do not accept such odious behavior against teachers whereby certain unionists were beaten up in front of the ministry,” Mahfoud told the crowd of protesters Wednesday in Riad al-Solh Square, a few blocks from Parliament.
“This is militia-style conduct by the ministry, not to mention that teachers have been threatened and warned against continuing the boycott" of grading exams, he added.
Mahfoud reiterated the UCC’s determination to continue boycotting the correction of official exams until Parliament meets to pass the adjusted ranks and salary scale.
“Only when Speaker (Nabih) Berri calls for a session to pass the new salary scale, and only then, will we start correcting the exams,” he said.
The salary scale issue has dragged on for several years, with progress further slowed this summer by boycott of Parliament by Christian and March 14 MPs over the pesidential void. But Salam sounded an optimistic note in his remarks to An-Nahar, suggesting the recent return of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Lebanon as three years of self-exile could spark political progress.
“Hariri’s return has opened a window of hope and optimism for people,” Salam added, saying he hoped the political class would benefit from the positivity in the air.
He also stressed on the need to resume Parliament’s work, especially to resolve the treasury bonds issue.
Commenting on the $1 billion Saudi grant to the Lebanese Army, Salam said it needed the Cabinet’s approval, stressing that previous donations were all approved by the Cabinet, most notably the previous Saudi grant of $3 billion to purchase weapons and equipment from France.