Lebanon News

Trash piles up in Sidon, solid waste plant workers strike

Piled up trash in Sidon, Aug. 9, 2019. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

SIDON, Lebanon: Trash has piled up in the streets of the city of Sidon as workers of the city’s solid waste sorting plant have been striking since earlier this week over unpaid wages. Employees gathered Friday for the third day in a row to prevent trucks from entering the plant in Nabatieh’s Siniq, south of Sidon. Around 450 workers have not been paid their wages due to the state’s 13-month delay in paying the plant for treating the waste of Sidon and more than 12 other municipalities in Sidon and Zahrani Municipal Union. This is in addition to a two-year delay in paying for treating the waste of Jezzine.

The workers have been demanding to receive their salaries before Eid al-Adha, which will start Sunday. They threatened to announce an open-ended strike if they did not receive their wages before the holiday.

Sources familiar with the issue in Sidon were surprised at how the plant’s administration would shut down the machines without coordinating with the Sidon Municipality, leaving the trash to pile up and its stench to fill the streets. These same sources have found the plant’s administration’s move to be suspicious, especially with the timing before Eid al-Adha weekend, making it difficult to release any funds before then.

Sidon Mayor Mohammad al-Saudi told The Daily Star that he was “personally annoyed” by the workers’ “irresponsible” action at the wrong time. “Even if the bills [to release the funds] were signed, will the plant receive the necessary money to pay the wages of the workers before Eid al-Adha?” Saudi asked.

Saudi added that the plant’s administration failed to notify the municipality of the situation before going on strike, “especially since the Sidon Municipality has been doubling its efforts to secure the continuity of the work.” Saudi said everything “would be addressed in the interest of the city and its residents.”

An official in the plant’s administration said the workers striking was due to the failure of the relevant administrations to pay the dues of the plant, expressing surprise at “the neglect of officials in following up to secure the necessary funds to pay the workers’ wages.”

The environment committee at the Popular Nasserite Organization alleged that the strike was planned by the plant’s administration to pressure for the release of the funds by the Finance Ministry.

“What the plant’s administration did is rejected and condemned,” the committee said in a statement. It called on the Sidon Municipality to force the plant to reopen its doors and for the plant to pay the late wages to its workers.

“Threatening to leave the trash in the streets as a result of closing the plant poses a great danger to the health and environment, as well as a violation of the law and of morals,” the statement added.

Scores of people gathered in a protest organized by the PNO in Sidon, condemning the plant’s closure, the state-run NNA reported. - Writing by Sahar Houri

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 10, 2019, on page 3.

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