BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman congratulated Lebanese workers on the occasion of Labor Day Thursday while urging them to take into consideration the burden on the Treasury of a controversial wage hike.
"Workers are the backbone of the country’s development and economy and they have the right to demand improvements in their conditions, but they should at the same time take into consideration the interest of the Treasury,” he said in a statement.
Sleiman said that by safeguarding the state’s Treasury, the interests and demands of citizens would also be secured.
Lebanon civil servants have upheld protests and strikes throughout the year urging Parliament to endorse a draft bill that would increase their salaries. Parliament has not yet endorsed the bill and is considering resources to fund the salary hike estimated to cost over L.L1.6 billion.
Lebanon marked Labor Day with a rally celebration organized by the Lebanese Communist Party, as officials congratulated workers on the occasion.
The rally started with a march from Barbir Square to Parliament in downtown Beirut with dozens of workers and supporters raising red banners and the party flag.
The party’s secretary-general, Khaled Hadadeh, lashed out in a speech at Lebanon’s politicians, accusing them of holding the country a hostage to foreign powers.
“[Our] politicians are not free in economy or politics, they wait for foreign powers to choose a president for them,” he said, referring to two failed attempts to elect a new president.
“This nation is ours and we will fill the [power] vacuum,” he said.
Ghassan Ghosn, the head of the GLC, also spoke, expressing hope that workers will see their demands met.
“Labor Day comes this year as we are calling for social justice... and we can sense the joy of the occasion because it is accompanied with a struggle for workers to get their rights,” he said.
Sidon MP Bahia Hariri also congratulated Lebanon's workers “who build, manufacture, grow and seek to provide a livelihood for their families.”
For his part, Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel tweeted his congratulations to the Lebanese public and hoped this year would bring job opportunities for the unemployed.
Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil also voiced support for the public sector wage hike in a tweet.
“On Labor Day, we confirm our support for the righteous demand [that politicians] endorse the salary scale, and that workers with limited income should not bear the burden [of funding it],” his twee said.
The Union of Palestinian workers also held a sit-in in Tyr, south Lebanon, outside the headquarters of the Red Cross calling for endorsing civil rights for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Protesters demanded the right to own property and the right to work in unionized fields, from which Palestinians are currently barred.