BEIRUT: Civil servants and teachers are set to hold a general strike Wednesday after a legislative committee failed to put a proposal to boost public sector salaries up for a vote in Parliament.
“The Union Coordination Committee decided to return once more and take action via a plan that would include escalatory measures starting with a general strike scheduled for Wednesday in the public sector, schools and vocational colleges,” UCC chief Hanna Ghorayeb told reporters at a news conference.
The strike would coincide with a large protest outside Parliament’s Nejmeh Square at 11 a.m., he added.
The strike was prompted after the parliamentary joint committees failed to agree on how to finance the controversial salary scale increase and refer the proposal to Parliament’s general secretariat, the body which would in principle put the draft law up for a vote in the house.
Speaker Nabih Berri has scheduled three consecutive legislative sessions starting April 1 with 70 items on the agenda.
The head of the Budget and Finance Parliamentary Committee, MP Ibrahim Kanaan, claiming committee members had overcome the “most difficult” aspects of the debate, said discussions on the subject had been postponed until further notice.
During a chat with reporters after the committee meeting, Kanaan also noted that some MPs had voiced reservations over revenues and means of financing the salary increase which is estimated to cost the government more than $1.6 billion annually.
Ghorayeb said the UCC regarded the failure to refer the salary scale increase as a ploy to reject the proposal altogether.
“This is an obvious objection to the salary scale under pretexts we are not convinced of,” Ghorayeb said.
“[Lawmakers] are making excuses ... to waste time and the opportunity to pass the proposal into law before the presidential election. This is pure negligence,” he added.
In 2012, the UCC launched a series of open-ended strikes nationwide to pressure the Cabinet into endorsing and referring the draft law to Parliament, crippling the public sector for several days.
Meanwhile, Electricite du Liban’s contract workers and money collectors said they would join the UCC strike Wednesday which Ghorayeb warned could become open-ended.
The Air Traffic Control department at Rafik Hariri International Airport will also hold a strike Tuesday starting at 10 a.m.
In a statement, the department said the two-hour protest was an “initial warning” over their demands being excluded from the committee debate.
“We have decided to stop working on Tuesday, April 1, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., in order to protest the joint committees’ lack of consideration of our demands during the salary scale debate,” according to the statement.