Lebanon News

GLC paralyzed despite efforts at mediation

The troubled General Labor Confederation remains in a state of limbo after several attempts at mediation failed to achieve results, according to the labor body’s eldest official.

Tawfiq Abu Khalil, who heads the Mount Lebanon Confederation, told a news conference Tuesday that despite his repeated tries to get feuding GLC sides together in recent weeks, little progress was made.

GLC president Elias Abu Rizk and his allies are under attack by a majority of executive council officials, who signed a petition demanding he go through with an earlier promise to resign.

Abu Rizk claims his opponents are under the control of “political forces,” namely his former allies in the Amal Movement and other groups.

Although the labor movement should be getting its house in order to face an upcoming budget debate and the new government’s plans to privatize utilities and enact new economic policies, Abu Khalil indicated that the GLC remained mired in “a two-month state of paralysis” amid “internal crisis.”

Abu Rizk has called for a meeting of the group’s 74-member executive council on Thursday, to discuss a range of items. But Abu Khalil said that he sensed that the meeting would fail to gain a quorum, since Abu Rizk foes appear to be uninterested in attending.

GLC official Bassam Tleis, who heads the Amal Movement’s labor bureau, told The Daily Star that his faction ­ which controls the largest number of seats on the executive council ­ would not respond to Abu Rizk’s call for the meeting. The move almost guarantees the lack of a quorum and further stalemate.

“He’s drowning, and he’s drowning all of us along with him,” Tleis remarked.

Without the necessary quorum, the GLC will likely remain paralyzed until the Labor Ministry steps in to solve the dispute. Upon taking up his duties on Monday, Labor Minister-designate Ali Qanso said he’d respect the labor movement but added that it should not get mired in personal disputes.

Some labor officials interpreted the comments by Qanso as a sign that Abu Rizk’s days as president might be numbered.

Qanso heads the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, whose allies in the GLC are in the anti-Abu Rizk camp.

But labor sources indicated that a “political decision” at the highest level would be required to end the stalemate, meaning that top leaders would need to agree on a successor to the controversial Abu Rizk.

They predicted that the issue would have to wait until Parliament votes confidence in the government and parties wielding influence in the GLC determine the type of labor leader they want to counter Hariri. The GLC under Abu Rizk led three paralyzing strikes during Hariri’s earlier governments, which saw army personnel deployed in the capital to ensure order.

For his part, Abu Khalil said he was unfairly criticized for undertaking the mediation effort, which stalled when the GLC president went back on an earlier promise to participate.

One of Abu Rizk’s allies, Suleiman Hamdan, had slammed Abu Khalil’s offer to mediate. Hamdan said that as a signatory to the petition calling for Abu Rizk’s resignation, Abu Khalil was in fact a “party to the dispute.”

Abu Khalil said that by launching the mediation effort, “I, in effect, froze my signature on the document.”

He added that 22 out of the General Labor Confederation’s 37 confederations supported a call for all of the 12-member executive committee to resign en masse, to clear the way for new elections.





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