Lebanon: public sector strike shuts schools
The Union Coordination Committee called for a strike in protest of a pay disparity that awarded university professors 121 percent pay raise. (File photo)
Government schools closed in several regions Tuesday because of a public sector strike to demand a new salary scale. Deputy Speaker Farid Makari announced later in the day that Parliament’s Secretariat would put the item on the agenda of the legislative session that follows the upcoming one. The Cabinet endorsed a new salary scale in 2012, but the bill has languished before Parliament.
The Union Coordination Committee, which called the strike, demanded amendments.
“We do not want the salary scale as it is currently suggested, and we do not accept it without amendment,” said Abdo Khater, the head of the League of High School Teachers, on behalf of the UCC, at a rally of a few hundred teachers and public servants at Riad al-Solh Square.
“We refuse absolutely to be given crumbs as a cost-of-living adjustment, when the inflation index has risen by 150 percent,” he said.
Unions are furious that Parliament approved a raise for Lebanese University professors and judges, but not to teachers and public sector employees.
“When the government gives one group 121 percent [raise] and the other group crumbs, then it trying to tear the union apart,” said Hanna Gharib, the head of the Independent Union Movement, which is distinct from the UCC.
Gharib, who led the League of High School Teachers and, effectively, the UCC until he was voted out by a list supported by March 8 and March 14 parties earlier this year, also attended the rally with his supporters, though they stood off to the side. He said he was “committed to the unity of the UCC.”
Government high school teachers threatened to split from the UCC last week over the sense that the umbrella organization was ignoring the pay disparity, but they made up the largest portion of the rally Tuesday.
Abbas Khalifeh, a union leader and a high school teacher, approached Khater after the rally to tell him the teachers supported him by the “hundreds and thousands.”
“University professors now are paid twice as much as teachers. We are still demanding the salary scale, but we must also fight for ourselves. If the UCC is not prepared [to stand up for us], we high school teachers are prepared [to strike out on our own],” Khalifeh told The Daily Star.
Khater blasted the government for mismanaging the education sector. “You are a failed government. ... How do you want us to continue to teach, when teachers’ salaries are not enough to feed them. How do you want to open new government schools, while you wage war against them, and lock their doors?”
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