The Lebanese government Thursday, June 28, stressed its determination Thursday to press ahead with plans to sack 1,200 of the 3,500 staff at loss-making state carrier Middle East Airlines (MEA), while continuing to negotiate with the unions concerned.
"Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri raised solutions found over recent hours to resolve the question of MEA on the basis of applying government decisions and on the basis of the dialogue between employees and their unions," Information Minister Ghazi Aridi told journalists after a cabinet meeting.
"These solutions guarantee the interests of all, while taking into account the state's resources," he said.
"The main lines have been set out; it is a question of fine-tuning the mechanism for putting them into effect. The atmosphere is positive and things are heading the right way," Aridi added.
He also confirmed that as a result of a draft agreement reached during the night from Wednesday to Thursday, a four-person committee representing MEA management, its employees and the state will look case by case at any possible "injustices" resulting from the company's destructing plan announced in May.
After the cabinet session and a meeting with Hariri, MEA chairman Mohammed Hout confirmed an extension to July 11 of a voluntary redundancy offer, giving extra substantial payments to departing staff.
The head of MEA's ground staff union, Hussein Abbas, said he regretted that "the management statement came late as the agreement had been due for publication in the morning."
"In any case, our position will be made known tomorrow (Friday) after a meeting with the other MEA unions. We will also make it known whether we will continue the sit-in and we will stick to the general strike call for July 3 and 4," he added.
The three MEA unions have been running a "rolling sit-in" in front of the company's headquarters near Beirut airport since June 21.
MEA is understood to be losing some $40 million per year. — (AFP)
© Agence France Presse
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)