Late-night deal averts Lebanon general strike

Ahram Online & agencies, Wednesday 12 Oct 2011

Government agrees to raise minimum wage and benefits to the ire of the private sector, with all but the teachers' union cancelling planned demos

Late-night negotiations in Beirut brought an end to general strike plans (Photo: Reuters)
A Lebanese general strike planned for Wednesday was averted after an eleventh-hour deal in which the government raised wages and increased benefits, meeting the demands of the majority of workers but enraging the private sector.
The General Labor Confederation (GLC) cancelled the planned strike after Lebanon's cabinet agreed late Tuesday night to raise the monthly minimum wage to LL700,000 ($466) from the current LL500,000 ($332). 
Bank employees, school teachers and airline staff had all announced their intention to join the strike on Wednesday.
The wages of those earning less than LL1 million ($664) per month will also increased by LL200,000 ($133), while those earning between LL1m and LL1.8m ($1,194) will get an additional LL300,000 ($199).
Daily transportation allowances will also rise to LL10,000 ($6.60) from LL8,000 ($5.30), and education allowance for children will jump to LL1.5m ($995).
GLC head Ghassan Ghosn said the union had suspended the strike for the sake of civil peace but did not rule out staging protests at a later date. 
But the government's concessions failed to please everyone, with the union representing Lebanon's private school teachers saying they would reject the night's agreement.
According to MENA news agency, teachers at Lebanon's public and private schools started a strike on Wednesday although management are continuing to perform their duties.
The raise in minimum wage was less than the LL1.2m ($800) demanded by unions.
Lebanon's private sector has been campaigning against the minimum wage, with some companies expressing concerns the extra costs would force them to lay off workers or even shut down their businesses.
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