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Teachers threaten to resume marking boycott
Lebanese teachers carry banners during a rally as they demand higher salaries in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011. (Mohammad Azakir/The Daily Star)
Lebanese teachers carry banners during a rally as they demand higher salaries in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011. (Mohammad Azakir/The Daily Star)
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BEIRUT: Teachers threatened to resume a boycott of marking official grade 9 and 12 exams next Tuesday after Cabinet failed to keep a promise to increase the salaries of public sector employees in the draft 2012 budget it passed earlier this week.

The Union Coordination Committee, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees, called on its constituencies to stage a one-day strike Tuesday which would include sit-ins near ministries and other state buildings.

The announcement came during a UCC news conference Friday at an exam correction center in the Beirut suburbs of Bir Hasan, where teachers stopped correcting in protest between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m.

Hanna Gharib, the head of the Secondary Teachers Association, challenged Prime Minister Najib Mikati about his promise to pass a salary scale that would give teachers and other public sector employees the raise private sector received in January. Teachers would receive some additional benefits as part of the salary scale.

Speaking of their agreement to pass the salary scale in June and implement it beginning July 1, Gharib addressed the Prime Minister: “June is over and July is almost over and you have yet to fulfill your promise, you took the salary scale out of the draft budget, contrary to what you promised.”

The Cabinet passed the 2012 draft budget earlier this week without including the salary scale.

It is currently being studied by a ministerial committee that includes the education, economy, and finance ministers. Gharib complained that UCC has not yet been invited to the committee’s Monday meeting.

Nehme Mahfoud, the head of the Private Schools Teachers Association, accused Mikati of procrastination.

“I just received a phone call from Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s office telling me that they arranged an appointment for me for next Thursday.”

Mahfoud said Mikati is procrastinating and forcing teachers into a confrontation with the people. As the draft 2012 budget included no new taxes, he said the prime minister will now say they will be needed to finance the raise.

He wondered how the Cabinet could introduce a salary raise to the private sector when it did not have the revenue to give to the private sector.

“They say they have no revenues! What about [taxing] seafront properties? The largest seaside project in Tripoli is owned by Prime Minister Najib Mikati,” Mahfoud said.

Teachers ended a boycott of marking exams earlier this month after receiving promises from the main blocs in the Cabinet that the committee and the Cabinet would pass the scale this week.

In line with UCC’s call, the League of Public Administration employees called on members to strike Tuesday and gather near their ministries and state buildings.

Economy Minister Nicolas Nahhas has said the salary scale shouldn’t be taken lightly and that the main priority should be to balance the state budget.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 14, 2012, on page 3.
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