Private school teachers to join Mar. 21 demo: Gharib

UCC head Hanna Gharib addressing protestors outside the justice ministry building in Beirut on Tuesday March 19, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Private school teachers will join a major protest on March 21, when the Cabinet is expected to tackle the controversial draft public sector wage scale, the head of the Union Coordination Committee said Tuesday.

“The association of private schools will go on strike Thursday and join public school teachers,” Hanna Gharib told protesters during a rally near the Justice Ministry in Beirut.

Public school teachers and civil servants are gearing up for a major protest Thursday when the Cabinet is expected to discuss a divisive plan to boost public sector salaries.

The Private Teachers Association has previously taken part in the open-ended strike that was launched by the UCC in February.

However, earlier this month the head of the association, Nehme Mahfoud, declared that private schools across Lebanon would resume classes.

At the time, Mahfoud said his association had not abandoned the UCC strike action but that different circumstances governing the public and private school sectors had prompted the decision.

At the rally near the Justice Ministry, Gharib reiterated his call for the government to refer the wage scale to Parliament for approval and called on Prime Minister Najib Mikati to stand by the people and not yield to the Economic Committees, which represent the country’s private sector.

“Do not to yield to the Economic Committees: stand by the people and refer the salary scale to [Parliament],” Gharib, addressing Mikati, said.

“Let March 21 be a day of salvation for Lebanon,” he added.

The Economic Committees, which include businessmen and owners of major firms, have repeatedly warned against referring the new wage scale to Parliament, arguing that the increase in salaries would inflict major economic losses on the country.

Mikati says his government is holding off on referring the wage scale in order to find resources to finance the increase in salaries.

The prime minister has also vowed not to bow down to pressure from the strike action.

Media reports said Saturday that the ministerial committee tasked with studying means to fund the proposed salary scale met Friday and had nearly finalized the necessary financing for the draft law.

Gharib said the Thursday protest would also provide an occasion to voice national unity following the recent attacks on four Muslim scholars that led to an escalation of sectarian tension in the country.

“All the Lebanese denounce the attack against the scholars ... We will all be together on March 21 not just for the sake of the wage scale but for preserving national unity and civil peace,” Gharib said.

The Daily Star - Lebanon