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TRUCKERS STRIKE

Beirut port truck drivers reach compensation agreement, averting strike

Beirut port truck drivers reach compensation agreement, averting strike

Beirut port truck drivers have reached an agreement on improving their compensation, averting a strike that observers warn could have paralyzing effects. (Credit: AFP)

BEIRUT — Truck drivers at the Port of Beirut will sign an agreement to boost their salaries and improve their benefits, putting off a threatened strike that was threatening to hamstring port operations, the president of the National Federation of Workers’ and Employees’ Trade Unions (FENASOL) told L’Orient Today.

Here’s what we know:

    • Truckers agreed to put off any strike until the end of the year in return for a LL1.2 million raise to their monthly wages, according to FENASOL President Castro Abdallah. Currently, drivers typically make LL1 million–LL2 million a month.

    • The agreement, which will be signed on Monday, also includes a transportation allowance, school grants for drivers’ children and annual leave, Abdallah said.

    • The drivers had boycotted a Wednesday meeting with truck owners after it became clear that their original demand of a $125 raise would be rejected. FENASOL representatives attended in their place, hammering out the main points of an agreement.

    • Amid pressure from farmers and importers, truckers met on Thursday to consider the deal as well as the potential ramifications of a strike, and ultimately decided on the temporary arrangement.

     • “Farmers and livestock importers called us pleading not to halt our deliveries,” a trucker said, adding that “imported food can rot if not delivered on time, and livestock would die from hunger.”

    • Hani Bohsali, the head of the food importers’ syndicate, warned last week that a similar strike by equipment operators at the Beirut Container Terminal Consortium, the company that operates the port’s container terminal, threatened to cause a “major food disaster.” He told L’Orient Today that this goes for any strike affecting goods passing through the port. BCTC equipment operators returned to work last week.

    • Drivers’ pay has lost some 90 percent of its value over the past two years as the lira collapsed in exchange markets. “With the Lebanese lira’s depreciation, our salaries are worth nothing anymore,” one trucker told L’Orient Today.

    • Drivers have been protesting the depreciation since the beginning of the month. Prior to that, truck owners also threatened to suspend operations in March, eventually winning better payment terms, fully in US dollars. Their employees, the drivers, are still paid only in lira.

    • Port drivers said they will continue to meet with their employers to work out a better deal. But a spokesperson for the truck owners termed demands from drivers for payment in dollars as “heavy.”


BEIRUT — Truck drivers at the Port of Beirut will sign an agreement to boost their salaries and improve their benefits, putting off a threatened strike that was threatening to hamstring port operations, the president of the National Federation of Workers’ and Employees’ Trade Unions (FENASOL) told L’Orient Today.Here’s what we know:    • Truckers agreed to put off any...