Lebanon News

All systems go for GLC demonstration

The General Labor Confederation is set to hold a major demonstration Thursday as intense political pressure is brought to bear to limit the scope of the protest.

GLC president Ghassan Ghosn met separately Tuesday with Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Rafik Hariri to discuss the reasons for the demonstration, namely a sharp increase in local fuel prices, the 2002 budget and a variety of labor grievances.

Ghosn said afterward that the GLC would go ahead with its demonstration Thursday at 5pm at Mathaf, where the Cabinet will be in session.

“The fees and taxes that are affecting, and will affect, a wide segment of the population are having a negative impact on their incomes, since they were already incapable to shoulder their various burdens,” Ghosn said at Nijmeh Square.

A GLC delegation also visited Hariri and will hold a second meeting the prime minister on Thursday, several hours before the demonstration.

GLC sources said that Tuesday’s meeting with the premier failed to produce a solution as  Hariri remained insistent that the government will not go back on its decision to increase gasoline prices by LL3,000 per 20 liters.

The GLC, meanwhile, is hoping that Hariri will make good on a promise to increase two allowances for private sector employees: one will boost the daily transportation expenses from LL2,500 to LL6,000, and the other will double allowances for school tuition payments, from the current LL500,000 per child.

The GLC also received a boost from the holding of a national labor conference Tuesday at its headquarters, where some 500 union officials gathered to discuss the GLC’s criticism of government financial policies.

But according to labor officials, politicians have used the tension that has resulted from the deadly attacks in the US two weeks ago to persuade the GLC to scale down its protest.

The politicians have argued  that the last thing the country needed was a big demonstration.

The GLC thus finds itself faced with the dilemma of whether to ensure a high turn-out, after ending its own internal division last week, or cave in to political influences.

“I don’t think there will be a huge turnout,” one GLC official from a pro-government party told The Daily Star. “There are regional and international factors that we have to consider. We will probably have a demonstration, but our party will only send its MPs to the protest.”

Despite the pressure being exerted, the GLC’s reconciliation moves of last week have paid off, since confederations that had boycotted the labor body are urging a high-turn out.

The Bank Employees Confederation, which has about 7,000 members, issued a statement Tuesday in which it called on its members to take part.

The confederation complained that dialogue with the government over a range of grievances has gone nowhere.

In recent days, the GLC’s Communist Party-dominated confederations, which were in the boycotting camp until last week, have enthusiastically supported the call to demonstrate.

Like the bank employees’ group, the Confederation of Independent Utilities and Public and Private Institutions has some 7,000 members, is politically independent, and is calling on its members to take part.

 

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