Lebanon News

Nazarian tells EDL contract workers to end 'riots'

Contract workers set up tents in the vicinity of the EDL building in Beirut, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Energy Minister Arthur Nazarian called on striking EDL contract workers to give up on their ineffective 'riots,' saying no good will come from them.

Nazarian stressed on the necessity to “give up the riots because they do not bring any good and they represent an occupation of EDL, affecting the company’s ability to function.”

EDL Chairman Kamal Hayek echoed Nazarian, stressing that the law protected everyone and calling on the workers to “calm down” because what they were doing were “riots and not rightful demonstrations.”

The pair spoke at a news conference at the Energy Ministry at noon, which was also attended by former Labor Minister Salim Jreissati.

The main speaker at the event, Jreissati criticized the striking contract workers, warning of possible legal repercussions while saying the law being protested was fair.

“A law shall only be modified by a law, and not by any violence in the street or assaults on public properties,” he said.

He argued that the “era of showing off force against the state has ended,” adding that the workers were committing many “criminal acts” during their protests.

“The penal code states many crimes that you are committing now,” he said, addressing the workers, “including the crime of violating the freedom to work with the aim of pressuring public authorities.”

“Your crimes are witnessed, and what you are doing is not at all a strike that the relevant laws allow.”

Jreissati said employing all of the approximately 2,000 striking workers “violates the most basic legal rules” and stressed that the Parliament’s law was clear on the matter.

Describing Electricite du Liban’s decision to limit its employment needs to 879 workers as a fair arrangement, Jreissati slammed the politicization of the workers’ movement.

“Lift your grasp off the innocent workers,” he said, addressing politicians he did not name, “because the law protects the rights of those workers.”

His speech came after some 200 striking electricity contract workers blocked all entrances to the Electricite du Liban headquarters earlier Monday, with one of them trying to light himself on fire in protest.

Security sources told The Daily Star the protesters had sealed off all four entry points to EDL, preventing employees from entering the premises.

Some protesters burned tires at the EDL headquarters in the Beirut neighborhood of Mar Mikhael.

The sources said a protester, identified as Amer Musa, sipped fuel and poured some on his body in an attempt to light himself on fire.

But Musa became nauseous after drinking fuel and was rushed a nearby hospital.

Riot police deployed outside EDL stood guard, preventing any confrontation between the protesters and employees.

Around 9 a.m., EDL employees gave up on entering the building and left, while the company’s chairman and members of the board of directors headed to the nearby Energy Ministry for an urgent meeting with Energy Minister Arthur Nazarian.

EDL has called on striking workers to report to duty Monday. A similar call for attendance was issued by the service provider National Electric Utility, which warned the workers would face strict measures if they failed to show up for work Monday. NEU, which has a contract with EDL to perform maintenance work in south Lebanon and the southern part of Mount Lebanon, employs many of the striking workers.

The protesters have said they were ready for a showdown with their employer Monday, insisting they would not back down on their demand for full-time employment at EDL for all of the nearly 2,000 contract workers. EDL has only agreed to hire 897 of them.





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