BEIRUT — Électricité du Liban (EDL) employees across Lebanon suspended a strike Wednesday that was intended to last one week, after meeting with caretaker Finance Minister Youssef Khalil, employee union secretary Mohammed Sabbagh told L’Orient Today.
Khalil met with a “delegation from the EDL employees union Wednesday, who presented to him the decision by caretaker Energy Minister Walid Fayyad to allow EDL employees and retirees discounted electricity, which Khalil had [previously] refused to approve,” according to a communique Sabbagh sent to L’Orient Today.
The strike had been called Tuesday in response to Khalil reportedly refusing to approve Fayad's decision.
“Khalil had expressed in a letter to the EDL his disagreement with the decision because it violated Article 75 of the Budget Law and general and appended budgets for the year 2001, which abolished all exemptions such as fees, fixed allowances, etc.. and because it violates the principle of equality, and burdens the treasury with financial burdens that have no legal basis," the Wednesday statement said.
“After the meeting, the head of the union, George Sarkis, stated that the atmosphere of the meeting with Minister Khalil was good, and he promised us to find positive solutions, and we promised him, in turn, to end the strike that we had called for,” the statement concluded.
The union had announced the strike on Tuesday, and on Wednesday morning EDL employees across Lebanon protested inside their offices, demanding improved benefits.
Workers on Wednesday also said that they would not conduct their usual duties, except in cases of emergencies.
Monthly salaries and retirement allowances paid to public sector employees have lost their value amid Lebanon's economic crisis, which has seen the lira depreciate by more than 98 percent.
And though civil servants' salaries, still calculated according to the old official exchange rate, were tripled last November, the measure hasn't compensated for lost purchasing power.
Meanwhile, the state-run EDL distributes only a few hours of electricity per day due to limited finances and production capabilities.
Residents instead turn to private generator owners for power, as well as solar panel systems in more recent years.