Lebanon News

Breakaway labour groups to boycott GLC meetings

Six labor confederations have cemented their breakaway from the General Labor Confederation, with one labor leader vowing that he will oppose GLC president Elias Abu Rizk “to the very end.”

A statement released on Wednesday said that the faction would boycott meetings of the GLC’s executive council, which is scheduled to meet on Thursday.

George Harb, who heads one of the six confederations, blamed the growing influence of political parties over the labor body for the emergence of a breakaway faction, the third revolt in seven years.

“Everyone knows who runs the GLC, Amal and the Communist Party, while (GLC president) Abu Rizk is merely a tarboush. The leadership is unconcerned with labor demands, and the proof is that we haven’t seen any real achievements in six years,” Harb told The Daily Star.

“We want to transform the GLC into an authentic labor movement. The current leadership has no connection to the rank-and-file, since it only represents the departments in several political parties with responsibility for labor relations,” Harb said.

Abu Rizk faced a breakaway group during his first term as GLC president (1993-1997), and led his own splinter group for more than a year after he lost the presidency in April 1997. He could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Harb countered claims that the “group of six” represented labor leaders disappointed with their share of GLC seats in bodies such as the National Social Security Fund and the Social Economic Council, or on the GLC’s own leadership boards.

“The opposition has been growing for some time, and is not just the result of recent developments,” Harb countered.

The faction is made up of the Lebanese Confederation of Workers Unions, the Lebanese Confederation of Free Unions, the Confederation of Maritime Transport Workers Unions, the South Lebanon Confederation, the Bank Employees Confederation and the Metal and Mechanics Unions Confederation, which is headed by Harb.

Although the opposition counts only six of the GLC’s 35 confederations, Harb said that other GLC officials might be drawn into joining. “In terms of numbers, this group is important, if you consider the Bank Employees Confederation, the South Lebanon Confederation, and the Metal and Mechanics Confederation, each of which have thousands of members.”

Another grievance, he continued, was that unionists active in the media sector are over-represented, holding one-third of the GLC’s nine seats on the Social Economic Council, which is scheduled to see elections for its top positions later this month.

“Abu Rizk heads the union at Tele-Liban, while Yasser Neameh and Tanios Andraous are both from the Print and Media Confederation,” he pointed out. “Does this make any sense?”

Labor leaders said that although Abu Rizk launched a drive last year to strengthen the GLC internally, the latest split in the ranks showed that disunity remained the order of the day.

“The group might not be that significant yet in terms of numbers, but what it means is that Abu Rizk’s decisions will be countered at every turn by a vocal opposition,” one official said.

But the group’s official statement did not name Abu Rizk - one of the faction members said this represented a desire to “express our dissatisfaction without attacking the GLC.”

The faction also called on President Emile Lahoud to oversee the drafting of a socio-economic contract that “aims at ending a wave of mass dismissals that has caused an increase in unemployment and protecting those remaining Lebanese workers.”





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