EDL Says Company ‘Forcibly Closed’, Warns of Blackout as Contract Workers Suspend Negotiations

Electricite du Liban announced on Monday that it will consider the company as “forcibly closed” after contract workers shut the company’s entrances in Mar Mikhael in Beirut.

It warned in a statement that this measure “will lead to a power blackout throughout Lebanon within the next few hours.”

Later on Monday, the contract workers committee hit back at EDL. “The power outage will be deliberately forced by the company’s directors, not by the contract workers whose job description is limited to grid maintenance and bill collecting,” the committee said in a statement.

“The board of directors issues the order to shut down or reoperate the power plants, and this scenario indicates an attempt to subjugate the contract workers but it will not succeed. They have decided to cut off electricity supply to delude people into thinking that the contract workers are behind that,” the statement added.

The committee vowed to “press on with the protest until the demands have been met.”

The EDL administration earlier announced that it has relocated to the Zouk power plant after the "occupation" of its building, urging President Michel Suleiman to intervene to end the situation.

The workers closed the company’s entrances, vowing to escalate their measures if the cabinet failed anew to meet their demands.

According to Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3), the contract workers stressed that they are set to intensify their endeavors throughout the day.

They noted that it’s the first day since the beginning of their strike three months ago that “no employee was allowed to enter the company’s headquarters.”

Internal Security Forces heavily deployed near the company as the full-time employees staged a counter-protest blocking the road in the direction of Gemmayzeh.

The workers are demanding their full-time employment, the company to pay their June-July salaries and compensations.

Head of General Labor Confederation Ghassan Ghosn held a meeting with EDL contract workers committee in the presence of head of the public drivers syndicate Bassam Tleis.

Ghosn told reports after the meeting that he supports the demands of the contract workers.

He stressed that “the strike will go on as all negotiation have been halted until the contract workers are paid their salaries.”

According to As Safir newspaper Ghosn’s interference in the crisis indicates that the negotiations between the employees and the political officials reached a dead-end.

“The efforts exerted by the GLC aims at reaching a comprehended mechanism for the crisis,” Ghosn told the daily.

He also held talks with a delegation from EDL contract workers committee on Sunday.

Sources revealed to As Safir that “the ongoing negotiations didn’t resolve the problem of the number of contract workers expected to be permanently employed.”

The controversy, sources said, is focusing on the full-time employment of 1,090 workers instead of 1,800.

As Safir said that the gatherers agreed to form a committee headed by Ghosn to negotiate with the competent authorities.

Energy Minister Jebran Bassil had previously proposed to allow 700 contract workers to stand for an official exam, out of some 2,500 employees, while the rest would become employees at private companies under a three-month probation period as EDL can’t contain all of the employees.

The thorny issue affected the ties between the March 8 allies as the Free Patriotic Movement lashed out at Hizbullah and Speaker Nabih Berri’s AMAL movement after the parliament approved a decision taken by the joint parliamentary committees to permanently employee the workers instead of adopting Bassil’s proposed plan.

The workers will have to sit for a closed exam, which will be held by the Civil Service Board.

The Christian lawmakers boycotted the parliament to protest the approval of the joint parliamentary committees’ suggestion arguing that the permanent employment of those workers would destabilize the sectarian balance at EDL as around 80 percent of them belong to non-Christian sects and most of them support Berri, who is a Shiite.

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