SUN 20 - 1 - 2019
 
Date: Jan 3, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
Lebanon braces for strike to protest economy, conditions
BEIRUT: Lebanon is bracing itself for a general strike Friday to protest the worsening living conditions that many people blame on the prolonged absence of a government.

No side has claimed responsibility for organizing the strike, but several groups, including the Sabaa Party and the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers, have announced that they will support and participate in it.

Several labor unions also announced that they would take part, including the Unions of Workers and Employees at Municipalities, the Unions of Petrol Workers and Employees and contract vocational and technical teachers.

The Air Transport Union employees will strike for one hour in solidarity with the labor unions, starting at 9:30 a.m.

Before chairing an exceptional meeting of the Lebanese workers confederation Wednesday, the group’s head, Bechara Asmar, said the strike “was a must” to respond to the public’s needs.

He expressed frustration over politicians’ repeated promises to form a government to no avail, saying his organization could no longer accept the current economic situation and such difficult conditions for Lebanon’s working class.

“All sectors are suffering, and this situation has only worsened with the inability to form a government,” he added.

As the government formation process has entered its eighth month of deadlock, he said, it is only natural that people would “want to mobilize,” and that the motivation to do so should not be questioned.

The confederation will participate in the strike together with the Union Coordination Committee; Asmar called for it to be peaceful.

Sabaa Party Secretary-General Jad Dagher also addressed the strike Wednesday.

“Striking is [the best] weapon in the public’s hands, and it’s an opportunity to pressure for the formation of a government,” he said.

“This strike was decided by the people so that they express their discontent [about] the delay in the government formation.”

But, not all sides have welcomed the call for a strike. The Economic Bodies earlier this week said it would not participate in the strike and distanced itself from the mobilization on the ground.

It is “completely convinced that more strikes can inflict more damage, especially before the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit” to be held in Beirut later this month, the group said Monday.

It called on “owners of institutions to continue working and to exert more effort in order to preserve institutions [and] the sustainability of our work and [to] support our national economy.”

Although the Economic Bodies expressed dismay for the delay in forming the government, it stressed that those wishing to strike wait for the “right timing to take an escalatory position in order to pressure for the formation of a government.”

However, the protests do not seem to be winding down anytime soon.

Last month, several protests took place to condemn the worsening economic situation that various Lebanese officials, economists and experts have warned of.

They have said a government is needed immediately to avert collapse.

The “You Stink” movement and other civil society groups have already planned a march for Jan. 12, from the Labor Ministry to the Health Ministry.

The Popular Nasserite Organization Wednesday called for a protest Sunday in several areas in the country, culminating with a protest in Beirut on Jan. 20.


 
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