BEIRUT — Public sector employees protested on Thursday in the southern city of Nabatieh and in northern Lebanon’s Tripoli, threatening to reactivate an open strike if they do not receive improved wages, according to our correspondent in the south and the state-run National News Agency (NNA).
A member of the Public Administration Employees League, Hassan Wehbe, who was among the protesters in front of Nabatieh’s Grand Serail, threatened to relaunch a workers’ strike if salaries were not adjusted in line with the rise in the lira-dollar exchange rate.
Public sector employees launched an open strike in June that unofficially ended around late July. The action caused widespread state paralysis.
Wehbe said at the protest Thursday that even if the government raised their salaries three-fold, employees still would not have enough income to make ends meet.
In an effort to end the summer’s open strike, the government approved improvements in employment terms for civil servants. The measures included allocating LL4 million to cover employees’ hospital and other medical expenses. Another LL200 million were also allocated as part of the government’s dues owed to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF).
Also approved over the summer was temporary social assistance to all civil servants and to retirees who benefit from a retirement pension. Ever since the measures passed in late July, some civil servants have resumed going to work.
However, the employees never officially ended their strike.
Wehbe said on Thursday that the daily “productivity allowance,” ranging from LL150,000 to LL350,000 per day and approved among the July benefits measures, expires at the end of September but should nevertheless be calculated according to the parallel market lira-to-dollar rate.
Meanwhile, in Tripoli, public sector employees demonstrated in front of the city’s Serail, where a Public Administration Employees League member, Ibrahim Nahhal, decried deteriorating living conditions. “The salaries of the public sector employees are not even enough for bread and water, and none of the officials cares,” he said at the protest, according to the NNA.
The civil servants also reiterated their demands, including forestalling the privatization of public assets, improving the conditions of public sector workers, a “real salary adjustment in line with the rise in the lira-dollar exchange rate,” comprehensive medical coverage and others related to transportation and social security.
The protesters said that meeting those demands should not be done by “imposing new taxes as stated in the 2022 draft budget,” the protesters said. Rather, they added there should be an “economic and financial reform plan that starts with the recovery of the funds smuggled out of the country.”
Reporting contributed by Muntasser Abdallah