Lebanon News

Contract workers offer to help fix power shortages

A smart meter is set with other old style electricity meters in a building in downtown Beirut, Monday, Sept. 16, 2013. (The Daily Star/Grace Kassab)

BEIRUT: Striking workers said they would work to end the drastic power cuts in Beirut, as Electricite du Liban and the contract workers traded blame Friday for the increasing blackouts.

“The contract workers' committee is ready to help and carry any repairs that fall under its domain and specialization,” the strikers said in a statement released Friday.

While power cuts are a regular experience in Lebanon, rationing has increased, with many areas experiencing almost total blackouts, in recent weeks as the workers have occupied EDL headquarters and branches across Lebanon for three weeks.

The contract workers' statement said a “malfunction at the UNESCO station” - which controls the electricity flow to the whole of Beirut - was the responsibility of the Transport Administration at EDL. However, the contract workers said that the facility’s doors “are open to take out any equipment required” to fix any problems.

According to the National News Agency, a representative of the contract workers called the head of the Parliament's Public Works and Energy Committee, MP Mohammad Qabbani, to inform him of their decision to cooperate.

“Qabbani welcomed the move and tasked the institution’s administration to act immediately,” the NNA reported.

The workers’ offer of help came after EDL released a statement earlier Friday, refusing to take any blame for the severe electricity rationing in the capital.

“We, the executives of all the institution’s departments, are forcibly denied access to our working place," EDL’s executives said in a letter to company Chairman Kamal Hayek.

“We are not able to do our job responsibilities outside our offices to ensure the continuity of electricity flow,” the letter said. “Thus, we deny culpability over any consequences of the occupation of the headquarters.”

The blocking of the facilities by the contract workers, employed by private service providers, has sparked a call to strike by the EDL's full-time employees.

“The union of workers and employees at Electricite du Liban ... decided to strike Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday,” in the coming week, a union statement said.

The employees called for the opening of EDL’s headquarters and the protection of the right of company personnel to freely enter and exit their workplaces.

“What has been happening in the institution during the last 21 days has never happened in any other institution on Lebanon’s territory,” the statement said, “in parallel to a horrible silence and negligence by all officials and politicians toward this vital port.”

The strike will only exclude the power plant workers, the “coordination workers in the transportation administration,” and the workers at “the main transfer station,” according to the statement.





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