Lebanon’s public sector employees will only work on Wednesdays for the coming two weeks, announced the Grand Serail following a meeting between a delegation from the Public Administration Employees’ Association and Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
Nawal Nasr, head of the association, said that the attendance of employees will be ensured once a week “so that citizens can accomplish their urgent business and procedures.”
The meeting was also held in the presence of the Minister of Labor, Mustafa Bayram; the head of the Central Inspection Authority, Judge George Atieh; the President of the Civil Service Council, Nisrine Mashmoushi; and the President of the General Labor Confederation, Bechara Al-Asmar.
Employees have been on an open strike dating as back as May due to the worsening economic situation that has rendered the local currency valueless. The purchasing power of salaries earned by public employees has been cut by nearly 95 percent.
While there are is no official data indicating the number of state employees in the country, some figures point to the presence of around 320,000 public sector employees, distributed as follows:
120,000 in the Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces
40,000 in public schools
30,000 in ministries and public administration
130,000 in public institutions and municipalities
120,000 retired soldiers and teachers
Following the approval of the public sector pay scale law in 2017, 12,000 billion Lebanese pounds were allocated for public sector employees’ salaries. This is almost 86 percent of the state’s total revenues, which in total amount to 14,000 billion Lebanese pounds.
Since the onset of the crisis in late 2019, the purchasing power of Lebanese citizens has dropped by nearly 85 percent. At today’s exchange rate of LBP 21,000 per dollar, 12,000 billion amounts to nearly $6 billion.
In an interview with Arab News earlier this year, head of the General Labor Union Bechara Al-Asmar said “Employees are suffering, the armed forces are complaining, and the country is collapsing.”
According to Al-Asmar, 250,000 Lebanese college graduates are jobless and many are facing arbitrary dismissal. At the time, Al-Asmar had stated that the only united demand of public sector employees was the formation of a government as this “will provide some political stability, pave the way for economic stability, and re-establish ties that have been cut with Arab countries, Western communities, and donor institutions.”
Despite the fact that a government has been formed in the previous months, these wishes have been far from met, with Lebanon currently in the midst of a row with Gulf countries.