Lebanon: Teachers demand minimum wage increase
The Teacher Unions’ Coordination Committee of Lebanon, which includes the EI affiliates: Teachers Syndicate in Lebanon (TSL) and League of Public Secondary School teachers in Lebanon (LPESPL), have issued a joint statement confirming a national strike and sit-in outside the Council of Ministers’ offices on 19 October to oppose the wage increases that were decided by the government.
Following on the massive sit-in, the government has agreed to meet with the teacher unions requesting to be included in the Indicator Commission.
The teacher unions demand that the national authorities amend the proposals and offer a wage increase equal to the rate of inflation, as well as rejecting unjustified proposals to introduce new taxes. This strike action demonstrated the unity of all primary and secondary school teachers in both the public and private sectors.
Despite the experience in others countries where a national minimum wage has been introduced, Lebanon's private sector has campaigned against the minimum wage with some companies expressing concerns that the costs would force them to lay off workers or shut down their businesses.
Initially, General Labour Council (GLC) leaders warned that the private sector’s intransigence proved their support for policies that impoverished the Lebanese people. The GLC said that is would face these policies by heading to a general strike.
Early plans for a general strike in Lebanon, on 12 October, were averted because the government agreed to meet a majority of demands that were made by trade unionists, including education workers.
At the time, GLC leaders declared that the unions were suspending strike action for the sake of civil peace but would not rule out staging protests at a later date if the government did not honour its pledges.
In an effort to speak with a stronger voice when it comes to salary increases and minimum wages, the teacher unions sided with the GLC, however, the situation broken down when it became clear that last-minute negotiations between the government and GLC would exclude the teacher unions, despite agreement with the GLC to refer back before accepting or rejecting any government proposal.
The GLC and government negotiations led to wage increases which teacher unions insist should have been refused as they do not benefit the public and private sectors. For example, people earning more than 1,800,000LL are excluded from wage increases as if they are not affected by rising rates of inflation.
EI President, Susan Hopgood, noted: “EI welcomes the Lebanese authorities’ decision to listen to the voice of organised labour unions in order to raise the national minimum wage. We encourage the government to keep its promise and deepen efforts in social dialogue to ensure decent remuneration and work condition for all educators and workers.”