Lebanon News

UCC head says official exams to be delayed

UCC head Hanna Gharib during a morning rally outside VAT offices in Beirut on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: The Union Coordination Committee (UCC) said Wednesday official exams for Grades 9 and 12 would be postponed as an open-ended strike by civil servants and school teachers over the delay in referring a Cabinet-endorsed wage hike to Parliament entered its second day.

“We announce the postponement of official exams,” UCC head Hanna Gharib said during a morning sit-in outside the office responsible for the country’s Value Added Tax in Beirut.

“Students will not sit for official exams unless they complete their curriculum,” Gharib said, adding that days lost due to the strike would be compensated.

A source at the Education Ministry told The Daily Star that Gharib’s announcement of the postponement of the official exams was merely a means of pressuring the Cabinet to refer the draft wage scale, adding that unions had no say on when official examinations are held.

The Education Ministry has already announced the dates of the official tests.

Exams for Grade 9, or Brevet, students are scheduled to take place June 11-14. Grade 12 students in scientific fields are scheduled to sit for the exams between June 17-22 and for those in the fields of literature and humanities June 24-29.

While public school teachers throughout Lebanon abided Wednesday by the Union Coordination Committee call for an open-ended strike, classes at the majority of private schools were held as normal.

Public sector workers across the country also reported for duty, but refrained from doing any work.

“We announce the total suspension of work at public offices,” Gharib told protesters at the sit-in.

He also warned that unless the government promptly refers the pay hike proposal to Parliament for approval, the union is “heading toward yet another confrontation.”

"Tomorrow [Thursday] we will rally outside the education ministry," he threatened.

Several sit-ins were held in front of all the serials in major cities in east, north and south Lebanon.

Dozens of state employees and public school teachers gathered in front of the various serials in protest of the delayed pay raise.

President Michel Sleiman told a Cabinet meeting Wednesday that the new salary scale had been approved by the government, adding that Prime Minister Najib Mikati would soon refer it to Parliament.

In a bid to appease the anger of protesters Tuesday, Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi announced that the government would refer the draft bill to Parliament within two weeks.

Last week Mikati promised UCC representatives to forward the wage hike draft proposal to Parliament Monday, but delayed the referral of the draft law after a meeting with the Economic Committees.

The Economic Committees have repeatedly warned against the negative impact of the wage hike in light of slowing economic growth.

Mikati has denied succumbing to pressure by the private sector and says his government has not backed down on its promise but is only seeking to secure funds for the salary increase that will cost the treasury more than $1.2 billion a year.





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