Panel Puts Wage Hike Ball in Parliament Court as SCC Mobilizes for Grand Battle with 'Thieves'

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Syndicate Coordination Committee chief Hanna Gharib stressed Monday that employees are confronting "thieves" who are preventing the approval of the new wage scale, as a parliamentary panel tasked with studying the salary hike cautiously announced that it will likely be approved on Wednesday, throwing the ball in parliament's court.

“The poor united the country under the slogan of the SCC,” Gharib, who is also head of the Public Secondary School Education Teachers Association, said at one of the protests that was held near the Social Affairs Ministry in Beirut's Badaro district.

“The SCC will win the battle,” he said. “We are confronting thieves,” he added about the country's officials.

Gharib, who heads the SCC, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees, accused officials of “lacking credibility” for reneging on their commitments.

He told the demonstrators that the SCC will only accept a 121 percent wage hike as initially approved by the government of ex-PM Premier Najib Miqati in 2012.

Similar protests were held on Monday near the Tripoli Serail in northern Lebanon, the Serail of Sidon and Nabatiyeh in the South, the Serail of Zahle, Baalbek, Hermel, Rashaya and Jeb Jenine in eastern Lebanon, and Mount Lebanon's government headquarters of Jounieh, Aley and Baaqline.

The demonstrations came ahead of the SCC's planned protest in Beirut under the slogan of a “peaceful day of rage” on Wednesday that would coincide with a parliamentary session to discuss the pay hike draft-law.

Gharib called for the mass participation of civil servants, students and their parents at 11:00 am near the Association of Banks in Lebanon.

He also urged Speaker Nabih Berri to call for consecutive parliamentary sessions until the SCC's demands are met.

He said: “The wage scale should be approved by May 25” when President Michel Suleiman's six-year term expires.

Later on Monday, Lebanese Forces bloc MP George Adwan, the head of the parliamentary panel, said that the committee is seeking "balance" that would benefit "all people."

"Depicting things as a conflict between political parties, classes or sects is not right and this is not the approach that can secure a solution," he added after talks with Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil.

"We'll go Wednesday to parliament to approve the new wage scale while preserving the balances, because from now on, we cannot but approve it," added Adwan.

"There is a reformist part, as rights without reforms cannot be paid and we want to curb corruption and bribery. Only reforms can let us have a balanced budget and we can then give people their rights," the MP said.

He said all things were "explained" during the lengthy meeting with the finance minister.

"We're all acting according to the same principles and objectives," Adwan noted, adding that the panel will hold a new meeting at 5:00 pm.

"We'll also convene tomorrow because this issue is like a workshop that cannot stop at a certain point. We're on the right track and everyone is showing serious cooperation aimed at reaching a solution," he said.

Commenting on the wave of criticism, Adwan added: "Some believe that these projects can be tackled one by one but we are obliged to safeguard the financial equilibrium."

"The new wage scale is not the end of the road and the revenues will be secured by 2015 even if we approve the scale now. The maximum limit is LL 1,800 billion," the lawmaker said.

"As a panel, we have provided all the data with the most possible accurate details and there is no debate over figures today. The decision is to be taken by the parliament's general assembly," Adwan went on to say.

For his part, Minister Khalil said he expressed "some observations over the size of the expected revenues and their repercussions."

"We agreed on most things and we voiced our opinion regarding the Value Added Tax (VAT) and the other taxes," he added.

"It is obvious that there is an approach that is drastically different than the one that prevailed during the meetings of the joint parliamentary committees and a LL600 billion reduction occurred," Khalil said.

"The figures have become clear and they were fully cross-checked and there is no ambiguity over them but the issue is now in the hands of the parliamentary blocs," he pointed out.

Khalil said the point of contention has to do with "the teachers' degrees and the salaries of the armed forces."

"We voiced remarks over the panel's point of view and the discussion must be continued. We cannot speak of resolutions but things were clarified last Wednesday in parliament and in the meetings with the SCC," he added.

"We are keen to approve the new wage scale on Wednesday while taking into account the salaries of teachers and military personnel and measures that can alleviate the negative consequences of the decision and ensure economic balance," the minister announced.

"The revenues are the state's responsibility and this is what we're trying to reach with the least possible complications," he added.

Berri has hinted that a possible vacuum in the presidency would not affect parliamentary sessions aimed at approving draft-laws.

Public sector employees and teachers have been on strike since last Wednesday to urge MPs to approve the wage scale without the amendments introduced to it by a ministerial-parliamentary committee and without installments.

The committee, which was formed after parliament failed to agree on the wage scale, has proposed to reduce the total funding from LL2.8 trillion ($1.9 billion) to LL1.8 trillion ($1.2 billion).



Comments 1
Missing peace 12 May 2014, 13:38

of course issues concerning lebanese daily lives is not commented by the sheep M14- M8 squad....

but let me comment that the SCC is totally right in its demands! in which country have the salaries be the same for 16 years? none except Lebanon! and now the inefficient politicians do not want to meet the LEGITIMATE demands of the people! i hope that they will show those crooks that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!