SIDON, Lebanon: Firefighters blocked the streets leading to the main Nejmeh Square in Sidon, south Lebanon, for several hours Tuesday in protest against the lack of a salary increase and hazard pay.
The firefighters, of which there were around two dozen, used four fire trucks to bar access to Nejmeh Square, preventing motorists from entering the southern city.
“We want our rights,” firefighter Ahmad Misilmani told The Daily Star, pointing out that a presidential hazard pay decree was being ignored by Sidon’s municipality.
Under the decree signed by President Michel Sleiman last year, each firefighter is entitled to a LL200,000 hazard pay, an increase of LL100,000.
“We haven’t seen that increase ever since,” complained the 25-year-old firefighter.
Misilmani said Sidon's 14 firefighters and seven fire engine drivers want a 60 percent pay raise that was given to fellow workers at the Beirut Fire Department.
He also criticized the city hall for neglect of logistics and the lack of fire truck maintenance.
“The fire department has been neglected for the past four years,” Misilmani complained. The firefighters called off their strike around 10:30 a.m. after receiving assurances from the municipality that their demands will be considered.
Sidon Mayor Mohammad Saudi blasted the Sidon Fire Department employees for lack of ethics, but also said city hall will look into their demands.
“They are undisciplined and immoral,” Saudi told The Daily Star by telephone, alleging there were acts of theft of items such as fuel and water from the department.
He also complained that all the fire workers have second jobs that make them incapable of fulfilling their roles at the department.
“Yet, they are demanding a 60 percent raise which will up some of the senior workers’ salaries to LL4,400,000, a figure that a municipality head with a PhD doesn’t get,” Saudi said.
Nevertheless, he acknowledged that the firefighters have “legitimate rights in terms of hazard pay and overtime which we will soon settle.”