Eleven former employees of Sidon’s Cooperative supermarkets on Saturday protested against their dismissal and their unpaid redundancy benefits.
Protesting in front of Sidon’s Co-op headquarters, workers held banners saying: “Returning to work means our right to provide food for our children”.
They called upon labour officials to overturn the ruling.
“I am a father of four children who still go to school. Where am I supposed to get the money for their fees and other expenses?” Salah Baraka, 47, who has worked for the Co-op for 20 years, asked.
“I am single so my responsibilities are fewer but my fellow workers suffer from the real tragedy,” Sobhia Jammal, another long-term employee, added.
Workers were given an obligatory 18-day holiday before receiving notice of their dismissal, which was said to be due to lack of funds.
The workers were refused payment of their 14th month salary, and ration cards worth LL45,000 as well as clothing allowances for warehouse workers were cancelled.
The Co-op’s board of directors is dominated by the pro-Elias Abu Rizk breakaway leadership of the General Labour Confederation.
The government-recognised president of the confederation of workers and employees in the south, Walid Jouweidi, supported the employees’ demands and called for an immediate retraction of the decision, claiming the Co-op’s board was illegal.
The decision, which comes as the board prepares for new elections following the death of its president and several other members, was severely criticised.
Jouweidi warned that if the management did not re-employ all 11 workers, the ministry of housing and co-operatives would intervene to supervise the institution directly.
Another complaint was that a poor finances were used as the excuse for the decision.
“How can the Co-op be suffering financially when it has recently opened two new branches?” one worker, who is still employed asked. “I think old employees were dismissed in order to hire new ones.”