BEIRUT: Parliament passed the long-disputed salary scale into law Tuesday, after five years, in the second session of the day.
Discussions kicked off over Article 21 of the salary scale, which addresses halting the work of employees in public administrations and institutions for two years. MP Nicolas Fattoush was quick to blast the proposal saying it would be a detriment to the salary scale.
The evening session witnessed some light-hearted jokes.
Discussing Article 21, MP Ghassan Moukheiber spoke at length of revisions, which he said, needed to be made. Following his comments, MP Serge Torsarkissian responded saying, “Speaker [Berri], I was not paying attention so please let him repeat what he said.”
Prime Minister Saad Hariri was seen chewing gum, before offering a piece to Progressive Socialist Party MP and Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh.
Articles 21 and 22 were put aside before a brief discussion took place on the sidelines of the session between Khalil, Hariri, Hamadeh, Telecoms Minister Jamal Jarrah and Agriculture Minister Ghazi Zeaiter. The five discussed amendments to the two articles because of items’ relations to one another. Khalil is expected to amend the articles and send them back to Berri for the MPs to vote again.
In the meantime, MPs discussed Article 24 dealing with judicial summer recess.
The next item discussed and passed during Tuesday’s evening session was Article 25 regarding official public working hours. The new ruling will extend official public work hours from between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. to between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. and allow employees to take a two-hour break for prayer on Fridays. MP Sami Gemayel questioned the decree saying, “Muslims can take two hours, but Christians can’t?” Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil interrupted saying the working hours would be for employees of all sects, not just Muslims.
In the first session of the day, MPs engaged in heated debates over the proposed salary scale as well as issues pertaining to the Lebanese Army. Of the 38 articles in the salary scale, 20 were approved in the morning session. Lawmakers completed discussions in the evening session. Speaker Nabih Berri concluded the first of a two-day session Tuesday, around 9:20 p.m. Discussions will continue Wednesday, beginning at 11 a.m. Tax proposals, another disputed topic, are expected to be debated in the second day.