BEIRUT: Education Minister Elias Bou Saab said Monday that he supported teachers’ decision not to correct official school exams if Parliament fails once again to pass a wage hike for the public sector.
“I support their decision, whether or not to grade exams. ... It is impossible to correct the exams without the UCC’s consent,” Bou Saab said at a news conference after meeting a Union Coordination Committee delegation Monday.
Asked whether the Education Ministry would be able to mark the exams without the teachers, he said: “I neither have the intention nor the ability [to do so], nor will I attempt to trick the UCC and correct the exams without their consent.”
“In total we have 1,400,000 student exams to be corrected,” he added. “Each of these exams needs two teachers to correct it and one director to verify that correction.”
Affirming the “continuity in boycotting the correction [process] until the adoption of the wage hike,” Bou Saab restated his full support of UCC’s demands and called on Parliament to pass the legislation during its next session Thursday.
In line with his previous statements, UCC head Hanna Gharib reiterated that the committee would not accept any deduction in the wage hike, nor for the hike to be paid in installments over several years.
Gharib also stressed the necessity of preserving “equality” in the wage increase among all public sector employees, and rejected any increase in taxes on the poor to finance the hike.
Discussing the prospect that it might be necessary to reduce the amount by which the wages would be raised, Bou Saab called for the deduction of the same percentage from all employees at the same rate, echoing the UCC’s demand for equal treatment.
Gharib explained that since 1996, the cost of living in Lebanon has risen by 121 percent, which the UCC wants reflected in the new salary scale.
However, since the government has already increased employees’ wages in 2008 and 2012, Gharib said those increases should be deducted from the 121 percent to determine the exact percentage of the raise.
Bou Saab also said he would preserve teachers’ rights and would not allow any further pressure to be put on them.
“When I spoke about keeping equilibrium between students and teachers, I meant it,” he said.
He outlined his efforts to ensure that the salary scale be paid “as soon as possible.”
Bou Saab said that he met separately with Prime Minister Tammam Salam and Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun Monday. He added he also telephoned former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil.
The minister added that Future Movement MP Bahia Hariri has also met MP Ibrahim Kanaan, the head of Parliament’s Finance and Budget Committee.
Bou Saab informed the UCC delegation that Siniora was positive and has expressed his support for a wage hike whose source of financing was secured.
Following intense meetings held by the minister with the UCC last week, teachers agreed to hold official exams but stressed that they would not mark the tests if their demands were not met.
Grade 9 students finished their exams Monday, while Grade 12 students will sit for theirs Tuesday.
Following the meeting, the UCC’s teachers announced that they would proctor the exams but swore to boycott the grading process until the salary scale was passed.
The parliamentary session that was meant to discuss the wage hike last Tuesday was postponed to June 19 because the quorum was not met.