BEIRUT: A row over employment contracts being offered to Electricite du Liban part-timers by three service providers Monday could jeopardize a political settlement that ended a 95-day strike last week.
According to Jad al-Romoh, a member of the EDL part-time workers follow-up committee, the contracts being offered violate the settlement as well as the Lebanese labor law.
Instead of guaranteeing full-time employment at the companies, the contracts stipulate a three-month trial period after which the workers could face dismissal if their performance was not deemed adequate.
â€œWe are back to the most important point which is guaranteeing the continuity of work,â€ Romoh said, adding that the service providers are also conditioning the payment of three-months worth of delayed salaries to either signing a contract or a statement denying interest in employment.
â€œThe settlement stipulated that we should receive the delayed salaries without any preconditions,â€ he said.
The settlement reached last week specified that part-timers would have the choice of whether to join the service providers or not, before taking an employment exam that could allow them to become EDL full-timers later this year.
The contract workers, around 2,000 in total, have received a pledge by Amal Movement and Free Patriotic Movement politicians that those who fail the employment exam would receive retirement compensation from EDL.
Speaking to the National News Agency, Bilal Jaouk, who is also a member of the committee, warned that the part-time workers would go back to their strike â€œif salaries were not paid [unconditionally] by Tuesday noon.â€
Romoh said Labor Minister Selim Jreisaty had earlier taken it upon himself to author a unified contract that assured continuity of work and eliminated any violations to the Lebanese labor law. Jreisaty was not available for a comment.
However, Fady Aboujaoude, general manager of Butec Utility Services â€“ one of the three service providers hired by EDL â€“ told The Daily Star that the company had started Monday to pay late salaries.
He said the company was carrying out instructions from EDL and the Energy Ministry, which said part-time workers need to decide whether to join the private companies before receiving their delayed payments.
Asked on how the late salaries would be calculated, Aboujaoude said the payments would be based on May work schedules, the last month before the strike started.
He said the three-month trial period aims to pave the way to assigning the part-timers specific posts matching their skills and work experiences.
While the companies are now offering a basic salary amounting to LL880,000, he said many workers would see higher wages once their skills have been matched with posts.
In remarks to the Central News Agency, Bassam Tlais, a union official close to the Amal Movement, said that part-time workers had not resumed their sit-in but had gathered at EDL headquarters Monday in anticipation of receiving their delayed salaries.
While insisting the settlement remained valid, Tlais echoed Romohâ€™s views, slamming the service providers for conditioning the payment of delayed salaries to signing the contracts.
â€œSigning the contracts [by part-timer workers] requires first [the drafting of] a new contract by the labor minister based on the labor and National Social Security laws,â€ he said.
Most full-time EDL staff and the administration returned to their offices Monday and director-general of the company, Kamal Hayek, called on all technical employees to repair the power plants in order to restore power to most parts of the country.
Most Lebanese areas have plunged into total darkness since the standoff between EDL and part-time workers started three months ago.
Energy experts fear that the power crisis in Lebanon will get even worse if politicians did not sort out their differences quickly and amicably.
Most regions are heavily depending on the private generators that supply electricity to households for less than 16 hours day during this blazing summer season.