FPM fumes at Lebanese electricity workers' "victory"

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Friday, June 15, 2012

The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) slammed a parliamentary committee's approval on Thursday of a draft law allowing contract workers at Lebanon's state-run electricity company to become full-time employees.

Under the draft law, all Électricité Du Liban (EDL) contract workers younger than 58 will take an examination to determine their qualifications, which will be administered by the Civil Service Council.

Workers gathered at EDL headquarters in Beirut to celebrate the approval of the draft law.

"Our unity has won us victory," said 32-year-old Jad, who has been a contract worker at EDL for 13 years.

Around 2,500 workers have been on strike for over two months over poor wages and lack of job security, with many involved in an ongoing sit-in at the headquarters of the EDL in Beirut.

In response to the decision, FPM MP Ibrahim Kanaan, speaking on behalf of the Change and Reform Movement, objected to the legality of the subcommittee which drafted the law while head of the FPM, Michel Aoun, walked out of the session in dismay.

"We will not allow this draft law to pass in parliament, and work cannot continue as such," Aoun told As-Safir newspaper.

Energy and Water Minister Gebran Bassil told a press conference on Thursday that coalition partners Amal and Hezbollah should clarify their stances in parliament, after the two parties endorsed the law.

"Ministers from Amal, Hezbollah and the Progressive Socialist Party have endorsed my proposal three times in the Cabinet. What happened today poses several questions," said Gebran, slamming the draft law as unconstitutional.

Amal and Hezbollah’s stance was the outcome of an agreement reached in recent days with the March 14 coalition to support opening the examinations to all 2,500 contract workers.

Bassil considered that the move would encourage workers to escalate protests and dictate the terms of their own employment.

"By passing this, we are telling workers that you get employed by being affiliated with a political leader," asserted Bassil.

The committee following up the issue of the contract workers was concerned that the examinations would be restricted to 700 workers only out of the 2,500 as per Bassil's proposition, according to As-Safir newspaper.

The workers, despite their satisfaction with the approval of the draft law on Thursday, stated that the sit-in will go on until all their conditions are met and until endorsement from the parliament itself is reached.

(Al-Akhbar)

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