BEIRUT: Electricite du Liban contract workers loosened their blockade around the public utility’s central building in Beirut Wednesday, after the state-owned company warned that the country would face additional blackouts if the protest continued.
The protesters said they would not prevent key employees whose work was essential to ensuring regular power supply from entering the building.
“The back gate on the seaside is kept open for technicians and employees in the operations,” said Mohammad Bajouk, a representative of the striking workers.
“We are not preventing anyone whose work is vital from entering the building. We do not want to cause power problems for the citizens,” Bajouk said as he led a protesting crowd in front of the company.
He stressed that the contract workers will not back down on their intention to escalate protests peacefully until their demands are met.
The workers are protesting a decision by EDL to give full-time employment to only a portion of them, 897 out of 2,000 workers, insisting on employment for all of them and without sitting for an exam by the Civil Service Council.
EDL warned Tuesday that further disruptions to the country’s power supply would be inevitable if contract workers continued to bar EDL workers from accessing the building.
The protesters, who burned tires Tuesday, cutting off roads and causing monstrous traffic jams, said they would be observing an open strike and sit-ins outside the electricity company and the Energy and Water Ministry.
Meanwhile, Energy Minister Arthur Nazarian stressed that he was merely implementing the law by limiting the number of full-time jobs.
“If they [contract workers] have any objection to the law, they should demand parliamentarians review it, instead of resorting to the street,” Nazarian said in comments to daily As-Safir Wednesday.
“I fully understand their social and economic concerns, but the solution cannot be through making threats, burning tires and closing the company’s doors.”