BEIRUT: Electricite Du Liban warned Monday the country was threatened with a nationwide blackout should contract workers not end their “takeover” of the state-run company’s headquarters in Beirut.
“The Electricite Du Liban board of directors decided to consider the company as having been forcibly shut down because of the takeover by some contract workers and bill collectors,” said a statement released by the board of directors, who held a meeting at the Zouk power plant north of Beirut.
EDL said the “measures taken by the contract workers will lead to an electricity blackout in all of Lebanon in the next couple of hours.”
The state-run electricity provider said they would continue to regard the headquarters as having been taken over until the premises “have been evacuated and the security situation restored.”
The three-month strike and protests by EDL contract workers have resulted in blackouts in recent weeks in a number of areas in the capital.
The exceptional meeting by the state-run company’s board of directors came in response to the contract workers’ protest earlier Monday.
The contract workers closed off all entrances at the headquarters in Mar Mikhael, Beirut. In so doing, EDL employees, including those tasked with coordinating hours of rationing across the city as well as maintenance staff, were unable to enter the building.
The protesters also set fire to several tires inside the company’s premises.
Contract workers said Monday they would remain on strike until their salaries are paid after negotiations failed to resolve the standoff between the workers and the state-run company.
The EDL contract workers’ committee met with the Head of the General Labor Confederation Ghassan Ghosn along with Bassam Tleis, the head of the Confederation of Public Drivers and Transport Unions, to seek an end to the crippling three-month strike.
The attendees agreed instead that workers, who are demanding full-time employment at EDL, should stay on strike until their salaries are paid.
EDL has said that it will only pay the May salaries of contract workers but not for the month of June, arguing that the workers should have joined private service providers by no later than June 2.
After the meeting Monday with contract workers, Ghosn voiced support for the workers’ movement and said their cause was just.
“The law to employ you has been issued and measures to implement it should take place,” Ghosn told reporters.
Ghosn was also quoted by local media as saying that no negotiations would take place until the salaries were paid.
Parliament has endorsed a bill to employ the contract workers as full-time EDL employees but the draft legislation is awaiting the approval of Parliament’s Secretariat amid opposition by some political parties.
Christian parties have objected to the draft law, arguing that employing contract workers with the state-run EDL without a proper mechanism would cause a sectarian imbalance in the public sector.
The committee announced Monday it would close off all entrances to the Beirut building and urged fellow workers in different areas to do the same.
The director-general of EDL, Kamal Hayek, has in the past warned that the company could risk total collapse if the sit-in does not come to an end very soon.
Hayek has also said that power rationing will not only increase but there is a strong possibility that Lebanon will be plunged into total darkness if the part-time workers do not evacuate the building.
EDL announced last week that it would assign bill-collecting duties to private-service provider companies Monday to collect bills with police escorts. The company also said private-service providers would begin repairs.