BEIRUT: The Lebanese Community Party held a rally near the Grand Serail in Beirut Sunday in solidarity with the open-ended strike by civil servants and teachers in protest against the government’s failure to finalize a public sector wage hike.
The protesters slammed the government for its delay in referring a new salary scale to Parliament and praised labor unions for standing firm in their demands in the face of the government and the private sector.
Hundreds of protesters led by members of the communist party and the head of the Union Coordination Communist Party Hana Gharib formed a human chain and marched toward Riad Solh Square near the Serail.
Carrying Lebanese flags, the protesters also carried a picture of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. One banner read: “We will not allow the money whales to eat our rights.”
The UCC, representing public sector employees and teachers, launched an open-ended strike on Feb. 19, along with a series of protests outside several ministries. They warned that their demonstrations will continue until the government refers a draft wage scale to Parliament for approval.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who has been the target of attacks by labor unions, has said that more time is needed to study means of financing the wage scale. He has said that the sharp decline in the country's economic growth has prompted him to be more patient in referring the wage scale.
The Economic Committees, representing the private sector, have rallied against the approval of the wage scale which they say could create a heavier burden on the economy already reeling under bad conditions.
Former labor minister Charbel Nahhas, who spoke at Sunday’s rally, said Mikati has lost his official mandate as prime minister after failing to refer the wage hike.
“Abstaining from referring the salary scale from Cabinet to Parliament has made Mikati lose his official mandate,” he said.
The Secretary General of the Communist Party Khaled Hadadah criticized the Cabinet and said it “has not disassociated itself from anything but its duty.”
“The salary scale has been a right of the public sector for tens of years and you should refer it to Parliament,” Hadadeh said.
President Michel Sleiman has pledged to push forward salary increases and refer the new wage scale to Parliament in the first Cabinet session after March 21.