Wage Hike Committee Holds Meetings in Race Against Time

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A ministerial-parliamentary committee, which has amended a controversial wage hike draft-law for the public sector, is holding meetings away from the media spotlight to reach a formula that is acceptable by all sides, MP Jamal al-Jarrah said.

Al-Jarrah, who is a member of the committee, told al-Liwaa newspaper published on Wednesday that the meetings are aimed at bridging the gap between the different parties involved in the wage scale crisis ahead of a parliamentary session scheduled to discuss the draft-law on June 10.

But the daily quoted parliamentary sources as saying that different parliamentary blocs continued to have converging viewpoints.

It quoted Change and Reform bloc MP Ibrahim Kanaan as saying that the pay raise draft-law is linked to the country's higher interest, similar to the electoral law.

Al-Liwaa said that his comment could be a sign that the Change and Reform bloc of MP Michel Aoun would end its boycott of the legislative sessions to guarantee social and political stability and would attend the session next Tuesday.

Al-Mustaqbal bloc and Christian MPs, including members of Change and Reform, have been boycotting the sessions aimed at approving the wage scale to protest the parliament's failure to elect a new president.

The majority of the March 8 alliance's lawmakers, including Aoun's bloc, have also boycotted sessions set to elect a head of state over the disagreement among different blocs on a compromise candidate.

A new session is set for next Monday.

The differences on the pay raise have led to wide range protests and strikes by public sector employees and teachers who are holding onto a 121 percent increase in their salaries.

But the ministerial-parliamentary committee has proposed to reduce the total funding from LL2.8 trillion ($1.9 billion) to LL1.8 trillion ($1.2 billion).

The Syndicate Coordination Committee, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees, threatened on Monday to paralyze the state institutions and official exams starting June 7 over the failure to approve the draft-law.

But Education Minister Elias Bou Saab said the exams, which were scheduled to start on Saturday, would be postponed for five days pending a solution to the pay hike.

Later on Wednesday, the SCC held a protest near the Value Added Tax building in al-Adliyeh to reiterate its demands.

Head of Public Secondary School Education Teachers AssociationHanna Gharib vowed that the SCC will not back down on its demands.

“The fate of the official exams is linked to the June 10 parliamentary session,” he said before protesters.



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