Tensions Rise as All-Out Strikes Loom Ahead

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Retired military and security personnel on Tuesday staged a sit-in at the Riad el Solh Square in Beirut to protest against the government's plan to their pensions and end-of-service benefits as part of its austere budget.

The protesters blocked all the entrances to the central bank headquarters as well as the Port of Beirut which they consider to be plagued with corruption and squandering.

The government is launching on Tuesday discussions on the 2019 draft budget; one that has been shrouded by speculations amid the top officials' repeated warnings of "hard decisions" that should be taken in a bid to rescue the country's ailing economy.

MPs Chamel Roukoz and Jean Talouzian, who both are retired military officers, joined the protesters to demand the government drops this plan and to opt for other measures to halt corruption.

Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil assured the veterans that the draft budget does not include any measure that would harm them, stressing that there will be no attack on their rights.

"The draft budget does not include any salary cuts, new taxes or VAT hike," Khalil told reported ahead of the government session.

Meanwhile, the head of the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers, Bechara Asmar, announced a nationwide three-day strike starting Thursday, warning of an open-ended strike if officials fail to pay heed to the public servants' demands.

Employees at Sidon's public hospital started an open strike on Tuesday to demand that they receive their overdue salaries and to denounce the lack of basic materials in the facility.

Moreover, per diem workers at Tripoli's National Social Security Fund carried on the protest they started one week ago to demand unpaid wages.

Employees at the Vehicle Registration Department also staged a strike nationwide to demand that they get the pay hike stipulated by the Salary Scale law similarly to all public employees.

Part-time public teachers at the Lebanese University announced a warning strike on May 8 and an open strike starting May 15 in order to pressure the government to meet their demands.

Source: Kataeb.org