Lebanon’s Union of Bakeries announced Monday it would hold an open-ended strike from Thursday until the government compensates them for the increased cost of raw materials used in bread production.
The protest action threatens to leave the Lebanese short of a food staple consumed with traditional cuisine. “We will begin an open strike starting on Thursday 6 p.m. and bakeries will be completely closed for business,” said the union in a statement.
The union said the sharp increase in the prices of raw materials used by bakeries for producing Lebanese white bread was the major reason behind the strike .
“[We have taken the decision to strike] after the significant increases that occurred with the prices of fuel, yeast, sugar and all raw materials that enter in the making of a loaf,” added the statement.
The union also cited a wage increase decision recently taken by the Lebanese Cabinet as another reason behind their call for a strike. The statement said four months of deliberations with Economy Minister Nicolas Nahas had ended in failure.
“We call on the Interior Ministry to protect bakeries [during the strike] so we do not reach a situation where bakeries are attacked by vandalizers,” the statement added.
The union has demanded that the government compensate bakers for the increase of the price of 20 liters of diesel from LL24,000 to LL30,000 and increase subsidies on raw materials.
The government subsidizes wheat intended for regular Lebanese white bread, which is considered a vital staple consumed with almost every meal. The government caps the price of a standard pack of bread at LL1,500.
In April 2011, the Economy and Trade Ministry increased subsidies on wheat flour, bringing down the price of wheat flour from LL580,000 to LL530,000 per ton. The increase in the subsidy averted a strike announced by the bakeries back then. Meanwhile, the country’s public transportation unions reiterated Monday that they would hold a nationwide strike scheduled for April 19.
The statement came following an assembly of the unions held in Baakline, where speakers vowed wide participation in the strike and repeated their demand to set a cap on fuel prices, which have increased to record high levels over the past months.
According to the Energy Ministry’s price update last week, the price of 98-octane graded gasoline reached LL39,700 while 95-octane graded fuel reached LL39,000 per 20 liters. The cost of diesel and fuel oil reached LL29,200 per 20 liters. It is expected that gasoline could exceed LL40,000 by Thursday, when the weekly price update is issued by the ministry.