BEIRUT — Public school teachers' unions across the country announced Monday night a strike from Tuesday to Sunday to protest deteriorating salaries and a lack of government assistance.
"We will observe a strike until Sunday," Hussein Jawad, president of the League of Public Basic Education Teachers told L'Orient-Le Jour. He added that the union would meet Tuesday with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and caretaker Education Minister Abbas Halabi "and tell them about our pain."
"We cannot continue like this. What is given to us with the right hand is taken away with the left hand," Jawad said.
He threatened to extend the strike by another week if their demands for improved salaries are not met.
According to Jawad, 25 percent of public teachers joined the strike Monday, demonstrating in various parts of Lebanon against their deteriorating working conditions.
In Tripoli, teachers from public and technical schools protested against what the said was "negligence" by the education ministry towards the rights of teachers amid the economic collapse.
They criticized Halabi's decision last Thursday, to give them a "support" bonus of five dollars per hour of teaching.
"We are not only demonstrating to obtain our rights as contract teachers, but to defend a cause and the rights of teachers," said Nisrine Chahine, a contract teacher and unionist.
No resumption of classes
In southern Lebanon's Nabatieh, striking teacher Abdel Menhem Atoui pleaded for an "adjustment of salaries as in the rest of the sectors."
"If the demands of teachers are not taken into consideration, especially with regard to wages and medical care, there will be no resumption of classes," he threatened. "Teachers will go to their place of work every day without teaching," Atoui said.
In response to their sit-in, Halabi announced that he would "suspend his decision to pay teachers an extra five dollars for each day they work." In a statement, he assured that he "did not know that his initiative would be perceived as an attack on the dignity of members of the teaching profession.
Halabi stressed that he would meet the leaders of the teachers' leagues and the president of the union of private school teachers, Nehme Mahfoud, with Mikati in order to discuss their demands.
Shortly before noon on Tuesday, public education syndicates released a statement announcing that they will not meet with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
The association stated that after the repeated visits to Mikati’s office, they were only given “promises that were not implemented.”
“Therefore, we call on the prime minister to find solutions and issue quick decisions that allow teachers and teachers to return to their schools and implement these demands which he has come to know very well.”
Severely affected by the financial collapse of the country, public school teachers have protested repeatedly to demand an increase in their salaries.