‘Day of Revolt’ over Employment Demands, Pay Hike

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Civil defense volunteers, civil servants, teachers and labor unions took to the streets on Wednesday to pressure the parliament on their employment demands and the approval of a wage hike.

The volunteers held a protest at downtown Beirut’s Riad Solh Square to ask for their employment.

“This demand is the minimum that we should ask for so that we live in dignity with our families,” a spokesman at the protest said.

Al-Mustaqbal bloc MP Hadi Hobeish has said that parliament would adopt during its legislative session on Wednesday the draft-law on the full-time employment of the civil defense volunteers.

Despite his pledge and as the protest went underway at Riad Solh square, more than 10 volunteers swam in the sea in Beirut’s Ramlet al-Bayda area, claiming they were willing to drown if parliament did not approve their employment.

The head of the General Labor Confederation Ghassan Ghosn joined them in their protest at Ramlet al-Bayda.

The protesters have been lately staging sit-ins across Lebanon to pressure lawmakers.

Demonstrators from the Syndicate Coordination committee, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees, followed suit by holding a similar protest in downtown Beirut.

“We are teaching students democracy, freedom and dignity through our protests,” the head of the private school teachers association,Nehme Mahfoud, said during a speech at the SCC protest.

“We respect the law and we would not cut roads or burn tires,” he said.

But he vowed to end the protest after Speaker Nabih Berri urged the SCC not to take escalatory measures pending a solution to the wage hike by Sunday.

Head of Public Secondary School Education Teachers Association Hanna Gharib, who had called for a “day of revolution to free the state from squandering and from financial deals,” urged protesters to unify.

“Join hands and we will emerge victorious in this battle,” he said in a speech.

The decision to hold a general strike and a protest came after the joint parliamentary committees failed again to resolve the dispute on the Value Added Tax in a proposal aimed at securing the funds for the salary scale that was approved by ex-PM Najib Miqati’s cabinet in 2012.

Deputy Speaker Farid Makari, who chaired the meeting of the committees on Tuesday, said that several articles of the proposal to find revenues for the wage scale were approved.

But due to differences on other issues, including VAT, they agreed to continue their talks, Makari added.

This prompted the SCC to call for Wednesday’s general strike to protest parliament’s procrastination.

Also Wednesday, long-time tenants demonstrated at Riad Solh square to protest a law approved by the parliament last week.

The head of the long-time tenants association, Nabil al-Arja, said during the protest that the new law aimed at displacing people.

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