Berri Says Parliamentary Session after May 25 if MPs Fail to Resolve Salary Scale

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Speaker Nabih Berri has said that a parliamentary session on the public sector wage scale would be held after May 25 if MPs failed on Wednesday to approve the hike.

Berri told several local dailies that lawmakers will discuss each clause of the pay raise draft-law, which was amended by a ministerial-parliamentary committee, on Wednesday morning and in the afternoon session.

“If it was not approved for a certain reason, then I would invite for another session after May 25,” he said.

Berri said he could call for a session before that date, but he preferred to avoid a dispute in the last 10 days before the expiry of President Michel Suleiman’s six-year term.

Lawmakers have failed in three rounds of polls to elect a new head of state.

The committee has proposed to reduce the total funding of the pay hike from LL2.8 trillion ($1.9 billion) to LL1.8 trillion ($1.2 billion).

It has also called for raising the Value Added Tax (VAT) from 10 percent to 11 percent and increasing customs by 1 percent, in addition to raising other taxes.

Berri rejected the VAT hike proposal, saying “it is unacceptable to fund the scale from the pockets of the poor and those with limited income.”

He said the committee could have relied on other funding sources “if there was a brave political decision.”

The Syndicate Coordination Committee, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees, which has gone on a week-long strike since last Wednesday, has also rejected the committee’s proposals.

Its officials have said the SCC will only accept a 121 percent wage hike as initially approved by the government of ex-PM Premier Najib Miqati in 2012.

The coalition is organizing its biggest protest yet on Wednesday. It has urged all public sector employees, teachers and their parents to participate en masse in the “day of rage” demonstration in Beirut.

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