BEIRUT: Civil servants and public school teachers headed into a third week of a strike over a salary raise and threatened Monday that the presidential palace would be their next target.
“Tomorrow’s strike will be held at 10 a.m. around the corner from the presidential palace,” the head of the Union Coordination Committee Hanna Gharib announced.
“We would be grateful to you [President Michel Sleiman] if you would refer the pay scale [to Parliament],” Hanna said during a protest outside the Industry Ministry in Beirut.
Gharib called on students of Lebanon, public employees and retirees to join UCC’s Tuesday strike “so that Lebanon would get a great day in history.”
Sleiman pledged over the weekend to push forward salary increases within a three-week deadline.
But Gharib said Monday the UCC was determined to proceed with its open-ended strike until the controversial pay hike bill is referred to Parliament for approval.
All private schools across Lebanon, some of which had voluntarily committed to the work stoppage since the strike kicked off Feb. 19, resumed classes Monday following a decision by private school teachers.
“In response to the president's intervention and promises to refer the pay scale to Parliament in the first Cabinet session to be held after March 21, 2013, the Association Council recommends a change in the course of [strike] action which will remain within the framework of the UCC,” a statement issued by the Teachers Association Executive Council said at the end of its meeting Sunday.
The statement stressed the “resumption of classes at private schools on Monday.”
The head of the Private School Teachers Association Nehme Mahfoud said Sunday that Sleiman intervened with Prime Minister Najib Mikati, and “they agreed that the salary hike would be referred to Parliament during the first Cabinet session after March 21.”
Mahfoud denied disagreements within UCC ranks and said the resumption of classes at private schools did not mean that the Association of Private Teachers was suspending its membership of the union.
“Instead of shutting private schools as we did on several days last week, teachers will organize demonstrations after working hours and step up local protests across Lebanon,” he said after a meeting of private school teachers Sunday.
“We will change our protesting style and adopt other methods that do not harm students. We can still teach the students and protest in the afternoon,” he said.