SCC Declares General Strike in Schools, Public Administrations
The Syndical Coordination Committee on Sunday declared a general strike that begins Monday in all public administrations and public and private schools, amid reports that the government intends to suspend the payment of a new wage hike.
In a statement, the SCC, a coalition of civil servants and public and private school teachers, also announced that it will keep its meetings open “to take the necessary steps in light of the developments, while reserving its right to practice the highest levels of escalation, including street protests, sit-ins and the shutdown of public facilities.”
The Committee decried that “some parties of the ruling class seem to have bowed to the pressures of bank and business associations and the coalition of the owners of private schools.”
“Any postponement in paying the wage hike would be an injustice against the people in light of the rise in the prices of commodities that accompanied the approval of the new wage scale,” the SCC warned.
It noted that “withholding the new salaries from public employees, teachers and the armed forces will be a forthright and decisive indication on the failure of the state, not only the failure of the government or the ruling class.”
The SCC also stressed that the state “has money to pay the salaries based on the new schedules.”
“If the government is obliged to slash spending, let that be through rescheduling the interests of public debt that cost the state 8,000 billion Lebanese pounds every year, knowing that it has been paying them steadily to the owners of banks for the past 25 years,” the Committee added.
“Are the rights of banks protected contrary to the rights of the people? We call on the Council of Ministers to be at the level of people’s rights, not banks’ pressures,” the SCC urged.
In remarks published Sunday by al-Mustaqbal newspaper, ministerial sources said the wage scale will be suspended until the approval of the new state budget, “which would pave the way for implementing the wage hike after adding to (the state budget) the tax amendments that were recommended by the Constitutional Council.”
The Constitutional Council has revoked a tax law aimed at funding the wage scale in its entirety after ten MPs led by Kataeb Party chief Sami Gemayel filed an appeal against it.
The appeal cited alleged voting and financial auditing violations and Gemayel has warned that the new taxes would lower citizens' purchasing power “by 10 to 20%” and would also push “more than 100,000 citizens below the poverty line.”
Gemayel also quoted Father Butros Azar, the secretary general of Catholic schools, as saying that school tuitions would rise an average of 27%.
“The prices of apartments will also rise and our youths will suffer,” the young MP cautioned.
“An economic disaster has been created without any economic feasibility study for the taxes to rely on,” Gemayel lamented.
The new taxes involve hiking the VAT tax from 10% to 11%, fines on seaside violations, and taxes on cement, administrative transactions, sea imports, lottery prizes, financial firms and banks.
Authorities had argued that the new taxes are necessary to fund the new wage scale but opponents of such a move have called for finding new revenues through putting an end to corruption and the waste of public money.