BEIRUT: The parliamentary committee tasked with resolving contract workers' dispute with Electricite Du Liban decided Thursday to include all of them in a selection round for permanent employment at the state-run company.
The decision was met with celebration on the part of contract workers protesting at EDL headquarters in Mar Mikhail, Beirut.
Parliament's decision is expected to resolve more than two months of protest and open-ended strikes that left EDL struggling to conduct vital repairs and collect bills, and led to a dwindling of the power supply across the country.
Nevertheless, there has been dissent. Free Patriotic Movement MPs withdrew from the parliamentary session held Thursday in protest at the final decision, parliamentary sources told The Daily Star.
The sources said that Energy Minister and FPM member Gebran Bassil had proposed to allow 700 out of the 2,800 workers into the selection round while the rest would be employed by private sector service providers for a three-month probation period.
Prior to the meeting of the committee, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri met with Bassil but failed to convince him to include all 2,800 workers in the selection process.
Parliamentary sources said that Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai was opposed to Berri’s proposal and told Christian MPs not to approve it in order to ensure sectarian balance in the public sector.
Nevertheless, Berri’s Amal-led parliamentary bloc together with the blocs of Hezbollah and March 14 constituted a majority in the committee and voted for all 2,800 workers to be included in the selection process.
The contract and part-time workers have rejected employment by private companies and instead demanded full employment at EDL. They say only full employment would help compensate for the years of neglect they suffered at the hands of EDL.
Protests by contract workers erupted when private service providers, contracted previously by the Energy and Water Ministry, prepared to commence work in June.
Last week, an escalation in protests by EDL contract workers prompted the Cabinet to ask security forces to secure EDL premises occupied by the protesters.