BEIRUT — As announced at the end of last week, employees of the two mobile telecommunications companies in Lebanon, Alfa and Touch, began an open-ended strike Monday to protest “the violation of their rights” and to show their opposition to any increase in telecoms tariffs.
Here’s what we know:
• The president of the workers' union for the two companies, Paul Zeitoun, and the head of the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers, Maroun El Khaouli, explained the reasons of the strike during a joint press conference at the headquarters of the GCLW in Jal al-Dib in the Metn area, where a number of employees and trade unionists were gathered.
• Denouncing “the intention of the Telecoms Ministry to increase the tariffs” on telecommunications services “in a reckless manner” which would impact “the life of every citizen,” Zeitoun recalled that on Oct. 17, 2019 a similar decision, which entailed impose a tax for use of WhatsApp, triggered a monthslong protest movement against the ruling class. The trade unionist starkly warned that “we will not accept any increase in the telecom tariff.”
• For his part, Khaouli underlined “the inability of the citizens to bear new costs” in the current economic climate.
• The strike, which workers are also using to make other demands, including health insurance contracts, is expected to last “until all of our rights have been secured,” employees told the state run-National News Agency.
• As a result of the strike, Touch and Alfa stores remained closed Monday and all commercial operations, as well as maintenance work on the companies’ networks, were suspended.
• Contacted on Friday by L’Orient Today, Telecommunications Minister Johnny Corm declined to comment on the announcement of this Alfa and Touch employees’ strike.
• A senior employee at Alfa told L’Orient Today on Monday that the strike could affect the services provided by the two companies as there will be no workers on duty to fix any disruption in services.
• With the fall in real incomes and the rise in costs of the two companies, due to the depreciation of the Lebanese lira against the dollar, the possibility of an increase of the tariffs for subscribers of the two companies is growing. The lira has lost 95 percent of its value since the onset of the financial crisis in 2019.