Today’s scheduled strike of municipal workers in eight municipalities lost momentum yesterday when workers in Beirut, Tripoli and Mina opted out of the protest action.
Rida Fadel, the president of the Beirut municipality workers’ union, said the general assembly had decided to reject the executive council’s recommendation to strike.
“We don’t feel that a two-day strike will benefit us very much. Officials will just wait until it’s over and will not do anything about our demands.
“The general assembly has instead approved an open strike to begin at an appropriate time,” Fadel said.
The Beirut union’s approximately 1,500 workers will be joined by several hundred other workers in Tripoli and Mina, who yesterday announced their decision to stay at work.
According to the groups’ executive councils, the absence of rural and municipal affairs minister Hagop Demerdjian from the country was one reason for postponing their action. Another was their concern for “the public interest”, a reference to their waste-collection duties.
Sidon will lead the remaining municipalities in a two-day strike beginning today, protesting at the government’s failure to implement a “series of oral promises”. But only several hundred workers could take part in the action, which was decided two weeks ago during a meeting at General Labour Confederation headquarters of a committee representing workers from the Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon, Zahle, Mina, Haret Hreik, Ghobeiri and Shiyah municipalities.
In Sidon, the 180-strong union said “after consulting officials and prominent figures in Sidon and the south, we have only met with promises that are not implemented”.
The union asked that its workers be treated like their Beirut counterparts and receive a ten per cent cost of living allowance and a 40 per cent increase in end-of-service compensation.
The Sidon workers, whose minimum monthly salary is LL500,000, cited an April 1995 decision by the municipality granting them the latter demand, although the central government authorities have not provided the necessary funds. The unions have complained that officials discriminate on two levels to weaken their attempts to get pay and benefits demands implemented.
Tripoli-Mina workers have complained Beirut and Sidon municipalities enjoy better treatment, while other union officials say discrimination favours white-collar employees.
Other demands by the eight unions involve measures already promised or approved by officials, or those that have been implemented for employees:
l 20 per cent special compensation for Beirut workers
l 16.37 per cent raise to be included in salary for Zahle, Tripoli and Mina workers
l Retirement, hospitalisation and medical care allowances granted on an equal basis as employees.