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Union vows to strike unless wage hike approved
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The Union Coordination Committee threatened Sunday to stage sit-ins, demonstrations and an open-ended strike if a parliamentary subcommittee failed to meet its demands when it begins studying a new salary scale for public employees and teachers.

The threat by the UCC, a coalition of teachers and public sector employees, comes as a parliamentary subcommittee tasked with studying the new salary scale law begins its meetings in Parliament this week. The subcommittee, comprising MPs from the March 8 and March 14 camps and headed by Metn MP Ibrahim Kanaan, was given two months to complete its work.

Hanna Gharib, head of the UCC, and other union members have visited lawmakers from both sides of the political fence in a bid to rally support for the union’s demands which were contained in a memo they delivered to the MPs. Among other things, the UCC is demanding a salary hike percentage similar to that given to university teachers and judges. It also rejects a four-year installment of the salary raise as proposed by the outgoing government.

The UCC said in a statement after its meeting Sunday that its contacts with parliamentary blocs were aimed at explaining the union’s memo which “reveals the flagrant retreat from the agreements reached between the committee and the government represented by its head” caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

“The UCC calls on the parliamentary subcommittee tasked by the joint committees to take into account the UCC’s memo in compliance with the agreements and in order to undo injustice and achieve justice and equality among all public sectors,” the statement said.

“The UCC insists that the salary scale be approved according to the agreements through contacts and dialogue, but if the parliamentary subcommittee does not take into account the UCC’s memo, the committee will find itself compelled to take action according to a recommendation that calls for implementing all kinds of legitimate union pressure when the joint parliamentary committees meet.”

If the parliamentary subcommittee does not approve the salary scale as soon as possible on the basis of the agreements reached, the UCC said it would stage “sit-ins, strikes and demonstrations, including an open-ended strike, in all educational institutions, public departments and all public sector institutions.”

The UCC has objected to the new salary scale which was signed last month by President Michel Sleiman and referred to Parliament for approval. It has warned of strike action if Parliament fails to remove the Finance Ministry’s amendments to the bill.

“The salary scale was forwarded to Parliament but it’s riddled with problems and amendments we can’t accept,” Gharib told The Daily Star last month.

Gharib said amendments rejected by the union include a 9.75-percent reduction on the overall value of the wage hike and the payment of raises in installments over four years. The union also rejects a reform plan attached to the bill that conditions raises to increasing the working hours of public servants.

In March, Mikati’s Cabinet approved the plan to boost public sector salaries after the UCC staged protests across the country.


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