BEIRUT: The Union Coordination Committee vowed to continue its fight for the new salary scale, despite signs of weakening resolve among civil servants, with low participation in the general strike and protest called for Thursday.
In parallel to the strike, the UCC held a demonstration at the Economy Ministry in Downtown Beirut. However, the protest failed to draw more than approximately 100 attendees.
Speaking at the protest, the UCC head Hanna Gharib said that the unity of the UCC had confronted the political parties’ efforts to create division among its groups.
“The Union Coordination Committee has demonstrated, through its 3-year experience, that it has a wide margin of independence from political parties,” Gharib said.
Accusing the political class of trying to destroy the unions’ independent identity, he stressed that among the members of the UCC “many people have left their parties or defied their pressures.”
Gharib said the unions were currently evaluating the situation and would take legal measures against the passing certificates to prevent their legalization by Parliament.
Many students joined in their teachers’ protest, showing solidarity despite the issuance of the passing certificates, which has sidelined the teachers’ role in the official exams correction process.
The National News Agency reported that representatives of the private school teachers addressed the participating students, saying that teachers were not the ones responsible for issuing the controversial certificates.
“Both of us are the hostage of the corrupt political class that does not respect who it deals with,” the representative reportedly said.
The NNA also said the representative rejected the excuse that a lack of funds was hindering the passing of the salary scale.
“They are taking the funding as an excuse,” he said. “But if the World Bank forms a committee to investigate the [illicitly] collected money in Lebanon, it will discover that could fund hundreds of wage hikes.”
A rift inside the UCC had appeared last week, when Gharib, who is head of the Secondary School Teachers League, advocated continuing the boycott of correcting official exams, while Nehme Mahfoud’s Association of Private School Teachers said it would correct them for the sake of “protecting the students’ academic future.”
The UCC then held a lengthy meeting Tuesday before emerging with a united decision on the correction dilemma, the significance of which was lessened by Education Minister Elias Bou Saab’s insistence on issuing passing certificates.
The response of civil servants to the UCC's call to strike had more success than the protest in Beirut, slowing down, but not shuttering, government operations across Lebanon.
In the north Lebanon region of Akkar, the response was the weakest, with less than 50 percent of municipalities and government offices closed, political sources told The Daily Star.
In Tripoli, the capital of the north and the country’s second largest city, the strike had better success yet still failed to completely shut down government buildings, as only an estimated 70 percent of public offices and institutions were closed.
However, the strike was fully observed by the public sector in south Lebanon, where all government offices remain closed for the day.
In many cases, employees showed up at their workplace but refused to work.