Teachers call for strike in new year

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Teachers and public sector employees called Friday for a strike on the day of the first Cabinet session of the new year to further pressure the government to refer to Parliament a draft law to raise salaries. The call for a strike was made after a meeting for the Union Coordination Committee, a coalition of teachers at private and public schools, as well as public sector employees.

In a statement after the meeting, the UCC called for staging demonstrations near the Grand Serail in Downtown Beirut and other government buildings across Lebanon during the strike.

The move comes as part of series of protests held by the UCC over the government’s delay in referring the draft law to Parliament. The government maintains that it is studying means to finance the cost of the pay hike.

The teachers have gone on strike for six days since the start of this academic year over the same issue.

Private schools argue that the salary raise teachers are demanding would result in a tuition fee hike and would lead to many students being forced to leave school.

After a separate meeting between the UCC and associations of retired public sector employees Friday, attendees came out against proposals that they said Prime Minister Najib Mikati made to cut retirement salaries.

They also said they are preparing to organize a general conference for all public sector retirees early next year.

Meanwhile, private sector schools called for keeping politics and union demands separate from education.

“We reiterate our call to distance education from tensions related to politics, parliamentary elections and union demands out of eagerness to preserve the interests and the future of students,” the Union of Private Educational Institutions said in a Friday statement.

It urged the Education Ministry to engage in a dialogue that involves schools with legal and economic experts to consider possible solutions.

The union also praised teachers who did not participate in UCC strikes that took place on Wednesday.

“They responded to the calls of their administrations and fulfilled their responsibilities, setting a positive example for students,” it said.

The union urged the government to pay outstanding financial assistance to free private schools, saying that schools could no longer tolerate the burden of underfunding.

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