A majority of General Labor Confederation officials voted Wednesday to depose Elias Abu Rizk as their president, setting March 16 as the date for new elections.
Forty-four members of the GLC’s executive council took just over an hour to discuss the labor body’s fate and how to rescue it from nearly six months of paralysis.
They voted to dissolve the GLC’s eight-member executive committee, which Abu Rizk heads, for three reasons: his inability to convene the GLC’s various bodies due to a lack of quorum; some officials’ exceeding their prerogatives; and because their opponents had “moved the GLC away from its proper goals.”
Abu Rizk told The Daily Star that he had no comment on the developments, but promised to hold a news conference in the near future to respond.
Tawfiq Abu Khalil, the council’s eldest member, was tasked along with three other colleagues to inform the Labor Ministry and ensure that its delegates attend next month’s scheduled poll.
Abu Khalil presided over a somewhat tense news conference at the GLC’s new headquarters, denying that political parties were dominating the GLC. “He’s like a son to me, he’s my student,” Abu Khalil said of his former protege. “But he’s welcome to take part in the elections we want a democratic competition.”
The group said that with the country at an economic crossroads, the time had finally come to end the GLC’s stalemate.
“Ten thousand people have lost their jobs,” Abu Khalil said, indicating that a rudderless GLC was no longer acceptable. Asked why the move had not come sooner, Abu Khalil said several reconciliation attempts had been tried to bridge the differences between Abu Rizk and his detractors, to no avail.
Asked if Wednesday’s move masked a political party’s desire to replace Abu Rizk, Abu Khalil reacted angrily, denying that union officials’ first loyalty was to anything other than the labor movement. “It is forbidden for union officials to subjugate their status as labor officials to their party affiliation,” Abu Khalil shouted, as colleagues urged him to spare the press the tirade.
Observers believed that a news conference by Abu Rizk last week, in which he accused Speaker Nabih Berri by name of interfering in the GLC’s internal affairs, provided the necessary impetus for the ouster. Berri’s Amal Movement controls the largest bloc of support in the executive council.
The 44 said that they were basing their move on articles of the group’s by-laws, as well as an opinion by the government’s legislative and consultation committee. They said the by-laws stipulate an “absolute majority” rather than two-thirds support from the council’s 74 members for a move such as calling for new elections.
Joining Abu Khalil on the four-member group are the South Lebanon Confederation’s Walid Jweidi, an ally of Premier Rafik Hariri, Usama Khansa, of Hizbullah’s Loyalty to the Resistance Confederation, and George Abu Haidar, of the Petroleum Workers’ Confederation. A delegation later delivered a memorandum on the developments to the Beirut offices of the International Labor Organization.