The General Labor Confederation is set to face crucial meetings over the next 48 hours as feuding officials debate the possibility of ousting the group’s president, Elias Abu Rizk.
The political support necessary to engineer his downfall appears to be firmly in place, but several labor sources told The Daily Star that the time was not yet ripe for selecting a new president.
They said that Speaker Nabih Berri, whose Amal Movement controls the largest faction in the GLC, was in no hurry to engineer the selection of a new head because the formation of the next government is just weeks away.
The interests of Berri and other key politicians with influence in the labor body, they added, lie in awaiting the outcome of parliamentary consultations over a new premier before deciding who should succeed Abu Rizk.
“The whole problem is that Abu Rizk never submitted a written note saying he intended to resign. This means that he can’t be asked to go through with something he never actually committed to,” said a labor source who opposes Abu Rizk.
“But the Labor Ministry appears to support the anti-Abu Rizk faction,” the source added. “If Abu Rizk challenges the ministry’s position, he could take the case to the Shura Council, which could take months to reach a decision.”
The source was referring to a statement by Ratib Saliba, the ministry’s director-general, who said Friday that the group’s by-laws permitted the ouster of the president if the majority of the 74-member executive council formally requests the step.
But the source argued that the body’s by-laws only permit expelling confederations from the GLC and not removing the president from office.
The two arenas for conflict in the GLC are the 12-member executive committee and the 74-member executive council.
Abu Rizk will convene a meeting of the executive committee on Monday, while Saadeddine Humayde Saqr, the GLC’s secretary-general, will hold a news conference shortly before the session to discuss the “crisis” in the labor body. Saqr is close to the Amal movement, which has come out strongly in favor of replacing Abu Rizk.
Despite his offer to resign and his decision to retract the offer, Abu Rizk said the executive committee meeting would have only two items on its agenda: labor freedoms and the socio-economic situation.
The sources expected the committee’s anti-Abu Rizk faction to prevent a quorum by not attending, in a bid to show that Abu Rizk does not have the committee’s support.
The faction of GLC members pushing for Abu Rizk’s departure is seeking to convene a meeting on Tuesday of the executive council, the GLC’s legislative body.
They have circulated a petition that has gathered the signatures of more than half of the council’s members, which demands convening the council. A similar bid to prevent a quorum could keep that meeting from taking place, the sources said.
While the executive council contains a number of well-defined factions, a significant group of independents have yet to decide their final position.
On Saturday, Bassam Tleis, who heads Amal’s labor department, urged the committee, of which he is a member, to resign en masse. Tleis’ remarks earned a sharp rebuke on Sunday from fellow committee member Suleiman Hamdan, who accused the Amal official of seeking to “dominate” the GLC.
Meanwhile, Tleis and Abu Rizk continued their battle during separate interviews with LBCI on Saturday. Abu Rizk indicated that Tleis and Amal represented “political intervention” in the labor group’s affairs. Tleis countered that Abu Rizk did not mind the intervention when Amal votes propelled him to the GLC’s top post in July 1998.
An executive council member opposed to Abu Rizk commented that “despite Tleis’ call for a mass resignation, he didn’t resign himself.”
“Some people will continue to make this demand,’ he said, “but if they don’t carry it out themselves, this is a message that says: ‘Take it easy until the new government is formed.’”