Lebanon News

EDL willing to talk as it evacuates its premises

Security forces prevent protesters from holding a sit-in inside the Electricite du Liban branch in Sidon, Monday, August 18, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

BEIRUT: The head of Electricite du Liban Tuesday has expressed willingness to talk to the contract workers, despite the company placing its headquarters in Beirut in the custody of security forces and telling its employees to evacuate over what it called an occupation by the protestors.

According to Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi, Electricite du Liban Director General Kamal al-Hayek has expressed his readiness to commence talks with the contract workers, a move that could end the communication gridlock between the EDL administration and the protesters.

Azzi made the comment after meeting held earlier Tuesday between himself and representatives of the contract workers.

The minister also condemned Electricite du Liban's intimidation tactics, saying that his "responsibilities as a labor minister" urged him "to reject any threat to the workers, irrespective of the rightfulness of their demands."

Azzi denied that he was mediating negotiations over the issue, stressing that his involvement was prompted solely by his responsibilities as labor minister.

The labor minister called on EDL contract workers to reach a decision that balances their rights and the overall needs of the institution.

He also said that EDL contract workers deserve admittance to the Civil Service Board and called on concerned parties to distance the dossier from sectarian interests and political conflicts.

Azzi’s comments came on the back of a tense situation Tuesday, were EDL had evacuated its premises over the strikes.

“Electricite du Liban considers the building in Mar Mikhael and all of its branches under occupation, given that workers cannot carry out their duty,” the state-run company said in a statement earlier Tuesday, in response to contract workers’ insistence on protesting inside the premises.

“We ask the general directorate of EDL and all workers to evacuate the headquarters immediately to preserve their personal safety and ask security forces to take control of the building and preserve all public money, bills and documents, as well as equipment.”

The company asked its employees to go to the nearest directorate to resume their work and all directors to go to the Zouk Power Plant.

It then asked the directorates to compile a list of names of employees who disrupted work, in order to file legal charges against them.

EDL also urged Energy Minister Arthur Nazarian to refer the case of EDL including "the violations committed by contract workers" to the Cabinet.

Protesters had resumed their strike Tuesday, gathering at the EDL headquarters in Mar Mikhail despite warnings by several officials that the "riots" must end, as the labor action was disrupting the work of the state-run company with EDL employees prevented from entering the premises.

The secretary general of the Contract Workers' Committee Bilal Bajouq has said the workers' demands and their movement were peaceful.

EDL called on striking workers and its employees to report to duty Monday. A similar call for attendance was issued by the service provider National Electric Utility, which warned its employees that they could face dismissal if they failed to show up for work.

The striking workers rejected a recent decision by EDL’s board of directors to limit the number of employees provided full-time jobs to 897 out of around 2,000 workers.





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