12 October 2011
Ministers loyal to Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun have expressed outrage at a deal reached to raise wages and increase benefits, saying the agreement was only a “tranquilizer.”
The ministers withdrew from the cabinet session held at the Grand Serail on Tuesday to express their reservations about the deal that did not meet the aspirations of the General Labor Confederation as well.
The government increased the minimum wage to LL700,000 from LL500,000. It also raised by LL200,000 the wages of workers earning less than LL1 million. As for those who earn between LL1 million and LL1.8 million, they would get a LL300,000 raise.
The GLC was calling for more than doubling the minimum wage to LL1,250,000.
Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc ministers were frustrated after the cabinet did not discuss a proposal made by Labor Minister Charbel Nahhas to raise wages by 30 percent.
Energy Minister Jebran Bassil described the deal as a “tranquilizer.”
“We reject them because we are seeking for a solution that would establish a new stage and not a new vortex,” he told reporters at the Grand Serail.
“These are tranquilizers aimed at ending the strike” that was planned by the GLC on Wednesday to demand better wages.
In remarks to As Safir daily, Bassil said: “This is not a government. It is governed.”
“The agreement reached (inside the cabinet) is not a radical solution. It reflects the inability to resolve problems,” he said. “Where is the problem in holding the strike?” Bassil wondered.
He said the new wages are not enough and if Nahhas’ proposal was adopted, it would have given workers better salaries and would have satisfied the private sector which had expressed fears that some companies could terminate the employment of their workers if the government enforced a high salary increase.
Nahhas also told As Safir that Change and Reform bloc ministers rejected Tuesday’s deal and expressed regret at the way the negotiations were held between the government, the GLC and the private sector.
“We held onto the comprehensive solution proposed by the labor ministry two days ago,” Nahhas said.
The labor minister along with several Change and Reform bloc representatives clashed with Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, who was tasked by Speaker Nabih Berri to broker an agreement to end the wage dispute.
They also confronted Finance Minister Mohammed Safadi who left the government session after Nahhas criticized Khalil over his proposal on health benefits.