Strike by electricity workers in Lebanon compounds weather problems
A strike [in Lebanon] by Electricite du Liban’s workers has further exacerbated the electricity crisis in the country as repairs on aging power plants came to a halt Tuesday.
To compound matters, the powerful storm battering the country has caused serious damage to high voltage cables and electricity plants.
The EDL employees union warned the company that it would stage an open-ended strike starting next week, a statement by the union said Tuesday.
The employees are protesting against cuts in bonuses and allowances proposed in the 2013 EDL budget, finalized by the Finance Ministry this week.
“We will proceed with an open-ended strike Monday if the Finance Ministry doesn’t rectify its mistake,” read a by the head of the EDL employees union Charbel Saleh.
“The union is ready to defend its rights no matter what,” he added.
Saleh told The Daily Star the EDL budget cuts included several articles, including allowances for workers working in high-risk environments, the allocations for overtime work, bonuses for night shifts and meals.
He added that some budget items were cut by as much as 50 percent while other entitlements were canceled.
“This is an utterly illegal move by the Finance Ministry,” he added.
EDL has warned in several statements that the strike would affect the repair and maintenance work even if the storm caused damage to the power plants and electricity lines.
“We call on workers and employees to help out citizens and not deprive them of electricity during this massive storm,” a statement issued Tuesday by EDL said.
“We understand the demands of workers and the union ... but we had hoped that the strike [would be rescheduled] until after the storm, because the most affected are the Lebanese citizens,” the statement said.
The statement also called on private service providers to adhere to their contracts with EDL and accelerate efforts for repairs, in coordination with the state-run company.
A source at the Finance Ministry told The Daily Star that the ministry had not received an official complaint from the EDL administration or the Energy Ministry to address the issue.
“We can’t react to anyone who protests. The officials in the company didn’t report anything wrong to us, neither did the energy minister,” said the source, who spoke to The Daily Star on condition of anonymity.
But Charbel insisted that the employees had already notified the company’s administration about their intentions if their demands were not met.
Meanwhile, EDL part-time workers have decided to postpone an open-ended strike after officials promised them that the government would soon look into their demands.
The part-timers claim that EDL and the Energy Ministry have not yet agreed to give them full-time jobs in the company although they have served the firm for many years.