EDL part-timers join private service providers

The headquarters of Electricite Du Liban in Beirut, Lebanon. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Electricite du Liban part-time workers said Thursday they have finally agreed to join the three service providers despite some reservations over contracts, adding they would uphold their longtime demand for full employment at the state-run company.

“We have agreed to start working with the service providers in line with the settlement that ended the strike and after the contracts were amended,” Jad al-Romoh a member of the part-time workers follow-up committee told The Daily Star.

“But at the same time we will not abandon our demand for full employment at EDL,” he said.

The head of the follow-up committee Lubnan Makhoul called on part-time workers Thursday to sign the service providers’ contracts. “Things have gone in the right direction and we are now confident about continuity of work [at the service providers],” he said in a statement.

On Wednesday all three service providers agreed to drop from the contracts offered to part-time workers a clause that stipulated they would undergo a three-month probation period.

Despite the amendment, Romoh said the workers still had reservations over many articles in the contracts. He said the companies are offering the same salary to all employees in spite of their years of work experience.

The companies are offering bill collectors three months of delayed salaries that were offered to other part-time workers, as a part of the political settlement that ended their strike.

The wages being offered to the bill collectors are less than what they earned at EDL, he added.

The service providers argued they would need time to assess the workers’ experience and qualifications before assigning them to specific posts.

Bill collectors aside, service providers said the salaries offered to the workers are higher than what EDL paid them, adding they intend to raise the salaries of those who fill more senior roles after an assessment period.

Fadi Aboujaoude, head of Butec Utility Services, one of the private providers contracted by EDL, said they welcomed the part-time workers.

He said his company’s teams have already started to collect bills that were issued but remained uncollected.

Depending on where they reside, citizens will be getting bills dating back to the end of 2011 and early 2012. The six-month period between February and July, when meter readings did not take place, would be probably collected in monthly installments, Aboujaoude said.

Meanwhile, Maroun Khawly, head of the General Labor Confederation Union, voiced sharp criticism to the political settlement that ended the part-time workers’ strike.

The removal of the clause stipulating a three-month probation period would not guarantee permanent employment, Khawly said.

“The Lebanese labor law allows for arbitrary layoffs and therefore the workers could later face unemployment,” he said.

Dropping the probation clause “has no real value as no written assurances of continuity of work were offered.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 10, 2012, on page 5.




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