Lebanon teachers strike on pay, action could spread

Reuters , Thursday 15 Dec 2011

Teachers and university professors’ one-day strike for higher wages leads to Cabinet's passing a 30 per cent increase in minimum wages, lower than previous deal rejected by private sector as 'crippling blow'

Lebanese private and public school teachers carry banners and Lebanese flags as they march in Beirut, December 15, 2011, during a strike demanding a higher wage increase after the cabinet approved last week, a modest increase which they described as humiliating. (Photo:Reuters)

Lebanese teachers and university professors held a one-day strike on Thursday to demand higher wage increases, the first stage of protests which could lead to a wider strike by labour unions later this month.

Thursday's strike followed a cabinet decision to raise the minimum wage by 100,000 pounds to 600,000 pounds ($400) a month, with a 30 per cent increase for salaries between 500,000 and 1 million pounds and a 20 per cent rise for salaries above that.

Those raises had been scaled down from a more generous settlement agreed by the government in October but rejected by the private sector as a crippling blow to business.

Workers complain that there has been no increase in the minimum wage since 2008 and the government measures do not reflect sharp rises in the cost of living.

"The increases they have offered don't match the demands of professors and teachers and other workers," said Hassan al-Shami, who joined a demonstration of hundreds of people marching through central Beirut.

"We've come to protest the increases they approved recently -- they're just a tiny raise," he added.

The head of Lebanon's General Labour Confederation Ghassan Ghosn told Reuters this week that Thursday's strike by teachers would be the prelude to a national general strike on 27 December calling for more generous wage increases.

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