BEIRUT: Education Minister Elias Bou Saab warned Wednesday that an ongoing teachers strike over pay raises would cause a delay in college admissions, while the Union Coordination Committee announced preparations for its "widest coalition" to strike against the controversial salary scale.
“If correction of official exams does not start four days from today, college-bound students will face delayed entry,” Bou Saab told protesters outside the Education Ministry in Beirut. “The only way out of this crisis is approval of the salary hike."
Meanwhile, UCC head Hanna Gharib said that “we have more than 40,000 students, and the UCC is capable of calling them so that we can all mobilize in protests if officials don’t give us our rights in four to five days” during a student sit-in outside the Education Ministry in Beirut’s UNESCO area.
Grade 12 students held a sit-in Wednesday at the ministry to demand the correction of their official exams after teachers boycotted due to a failure in settling the wage hike dispute.
The students called for “correction to be done by teachers and no one else,” reiterating the need to give teachers their rights.
The students warned that protests would move to Riad al-Solh square if teachers' demands were not met.
Gharib said the Council for Urban Planning wouldn’t meet Wednesday as a result of protests organized by the UCC outside its headquarters, pointing out that disruptions in the work of the council also disrupts the work of 15 ministries.
Striking civil servants called earlier Wednesday for the public to stand by their cause, reiterating that state workers would boycott the correction of official exams and paralyze state institutions until Parliament approves the new salary scale.
Civil servants organized a protest Wednesday outside a government building and a sit-in at the Education Ministry, to coincide with their weekly nationwide strike, in response to delays in passing a new wage scale for the public sector.
During the protests, workers’ spokesman Mahmoud Haidar condemned lawmakers’ failures, pointing out the political stalemate has left a void in the presidency along with disrupting Cabinet and Parliament sessions.
The spokesman urged ministers to put the wage hike at the forefront of their agenda, arguing that issues pertaining to “living conditions should be placed outside the [realm] of political pressure.”
Haidar said the salary scale issue had evolved into a national concern, calling on "all citizens to stand by the civil servants until the salary scale is approved."
While lawmakers and ministers have largely agreed on passing a new salary scale, disagreements over revenue sources to cover the estimate $1.6 billion annual cost have blocked approval.
Haidar said that raising the issue of “revenues is heresy and a violation of the Constitution.”
The Union Coordination Committee announced Tuesday that protests would take place outside the Urban Planning building at 9 a.m. Wednesday while another delegation would take part in a sit-in inside the Education Ministry at 11 a.m.