EI national affiliates, the Ligue des professeurs de l’enseignement secondaire public du Liban (LPESPL), the Teachers’ Syndicate of Lebanon (TSL), and the League of Public Technical and Vocational Teachers (CETO), were joined by the public sector in their strike on 10 October. Teachers' unions and public sector employees in Lebanon united to press the government to implement a long-awaited salary scale.
Successful public sector strike
The demonstration was called for by the Union Coordination Committee (UCC), composed of EI affiliates and other public employees’ organisations. Demonstrators – estimated to number between 1,500 and 2,000 – marched for around an hour from the Education Ministry to the offices of Prime Minister in Beirut.
The strike was observed in almost all public and private schools, and public administrations. This is the first time that there have been three strikes in the public sector over three months in Lebanon.
Demonstrators threatened to further escalate their actions unless the Cabinet implements a long-awaited pay raise.
“There will be more and more escalatory measures all the way to an open-ended sit-in outside the Grand Serail if the government fails to refer the salary scale to Parliament,” said TSL President Nehme Mahfoud.
Government must respect previous commitments
Public sector employees demand that the draft law to raise salaries for public sector employees be sent to the Parliament by the next governmental meeting on 17 October.
The government approved a substantial raise for civil servants and public school teachers, but the decision still requires approval from Parliament.
The government has shown reluctance to send the bill to Parliament until it reaches an agreement to secure funds to finance the mass salary increases.
The teacher leaders denounced the fact that schools administrations threatened teachers from joining the strike, accusing school administrations of acting like commercial institutions rather than educational institutions, asking them how their teachers teach about civil rights and unions rights when they are not allowed to practice it.
In August 2012 public and private schools teachers started their protesting actions by boycotting the corrections of official exams. Governmental political parties then negotiated with the UCC, reaching the agreement that the draft law will be referred to Parliament by the end of that month, which did not happen. This of course ensured that national official exams were held and corrected by teachers who kept their part of the agreement.
Investing in education and other public services in front of the crisis
Demonstrators also accused government of wasteful spending, and requested that taxes should be imposed properly to finance the raise instead of imposing indirect taxes on people to secure the needed resources.
Most ministers have resisted imposing tax hikes to fund the salary scale amid economic recession, arguing that such a measure could spark protests in the country.
“We support our Lebanese colleagues in their struggle to ensure decent living and working conditions for themselves, as well as quality public education for their students,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “It’s crucial that national authorities understand that cutting spending in education and other public services, such as health, is a short-term view, and in no way the solution. EI strongly believe that in times of economic and financial crisis, investing in public services, especially education, is key to recovery.”