The General Labor Confederation is gearing up for its first major test after last week’s reconciliation moves, as it drums up support for a demonstration Thursday.
The GLC has been weakened by a boycott of more than one-third of its confederations since it elected a new leadership in February. But last week, efforts to bring boycotting confederations back into the fold paid off during a session that saw officials agree to work on internal reforms of the divided labor body.
The GLC has decided to hold a demonstration Thursday to protest the 2002 budget, which the government endorsed earlier this month. It made the decision during a meeting Thursday, which saw the formerly boycotting confederations in attendance.
GLC president Ghassan Ghosn traveled to Nabatieh Saturday to urge labor cadres to turn out for the demonstration, which he said was not only meant to protest a LL3,000 increase on gasoline prices, but the government’s financial and budgetary policies.
Labor officials are angry that the Cabinet introduced the LL3,000 price rise, while government and labor officials had just begun to engage in dialogue aimed at resolving the country’s economic crisis.
Ghosn told his audience that GLC favored “social dialogue” to find a way out of the recession, but vowed that the labor body was serious about exerting pressure on the government.
“We are here in the South to visit labor leaders so that we can prepare to make our position known very clearly (on Thursday),” he said. Ghosn added that GLC officials would meet Hariri to discuss the situation after his return from trips to France and Syria in recent days.
Top politicians have been distracted by the deadly attacks in the United States earlier this month, but some GLC officials believe that it is no excuse for pushing through unpopular tax and other economic policies.
They are also adamant that despite a climate of “harmony” among the country’s top three politicians, the labor movement cannot cave in to every government decision. “Just because the three leaders are agreed on every issue, doesn’t mean that we have to take this terrible gasoline price increase sitting down,” a source said.
“This will be an important demonstration for the GLC, since the confederations backed by the Communist Party are now back on board, which means there is the potential for a decent turn-out in the street.”