Lebanon News

Protesters demand Lebanon prioritize wage hike

Protesters gather outside the Finance Ministry on Saturday, March 16, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Protesters in Beirut demanded Saturday that the government devote exclusive attention to studying a public sector salary scale draft law during next week’s Cabinet session and then refer it to Parliament.

“The Cabinet session on March 21 should only be held for the salary scaly, its financing and referring to Parliament and [they should] remove all traps from its agenda that could prevent that,” Hanna Gharib, the head of the Union Coordination Committee, said during a protest outside the Finance Ministry.

Civil servants and teachers have held almost daily protests outside several ministries, the port of Beirut as well as Lebanon’s international airport in a bid to pressure the Cabinet to refer the new wage hike to Parliament for final approval.

The rallies have been accompanied by an open-ended strike of public sector employees as well as public school teachers since Feb. 19 leaving most government offices nonoperational.

However, the government says it needs more time to search for means of financing the pay raise which is expected to cost the state treasury some $1.2 billion annually.

Media reports said Saturday that the ministerial committee tasked with studying the new salary scale met Friday and nearly finalized the necessary financing for the draft law.

During the protest that gathered hundreds of people, Gharib, who has spearheaded protest movement, admitted that financing the wage hike before referring it to Parliament was a reasonable demand by the government.

“It is certain that financing the salary scale is fair and we have the right to know how it looks and what the sources of financing are,” Gharib also said.

“But we refuse to finance the salary scale at the expense of those who live on the minimum wage but at the expense of the [filthy rich],” he added.

The private sector, represented by the Economic Committees, have rallied against the adoption of the salary scale on the basis that it would burden employers already struggling under a weak economy.

 

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