A scuffle broke out Monday night between part-time Electricite du Liban workers on strike and citizens opposing the closure of EDL’s headquarters in Corniche al-Nahr.
Meanwhile, EDL’s director-general warned the country risked total blackout if the sit-in did not end soon.
The contract workers, who pitched tents inside EDL’s headquarters in an attempt to press the government to make them full-time employees in the state-run company, hurled stones at scores of citizens who are demanding that the strike end and allow full-time staff to resume work normally.
Riot police armed with batons and shields tried to separate the angry crowds from the part-time workers who were entrenched inside the compound of the company.
Eyewitnesses near the scene of the clashes said that some of the citizens who tried to evict the part-time workers from the building were chanting political slogans.
They added that the demonstration had been initiated by Christian parties like the Free Patriotic Movement, the Kataeb party and the Lebanese Forces.
Part-time workers accuse Energy and Water Minister Gebran Bassil of instigating the demonstration against them in a bid to show the public that the contractual staff is threatening the interests of the country.
A number of demonstrators and part-time workers on strike suffered minor injuries during an exchange of stones.
Security forces managed to disperse the crowd that gathered outside the EDL’s gates but it was not certain if the demonstrators will gather again near the gate.
The 80-day strike took a sectarian twist after the Christian parties claimed that employing all of the part-time workers would cause a sectarian and confessional imbalance because most of the contractual workers were Muslims.
The director-general of EDL, Kamal Hayek, warned after meeting Bassil that the company would risk total collapse if the sit-in did not come to an end very soon.
He added that the strike and occupation of the headquarters have dealt a severe blow to all of EDL’s operations all over the country.
“Collection of electricity bills have come to a halt after the bill collectors started their open-ended strike 80 days ago,” Hayek said.
“To make matters even worse some of the striking bill collectors are holding more than $650,000 worth of electricity bills which they collected from subscribers,” he added.
Hayek said that power rationing would not only increase but there was a strong possibility that Lebanon would be plunged into total darkness if the part-time workers did not evacuate the building.
“Syria has ceased supplying us with 150 MW of electricity because we failed to pay the bill on regular basis. All maintenance work at the power plants has also stopped due to the strike. All these factors will further complicate our efforts to resume normal operations.” Hayek said.
He added that if the strike did not come to an end EDL staff would not receive their salaries for the months of May and June.
“These part-timers are intimidating the full-time workers and preventing them from doing their jobs All these provocations will cause the situation to get even worse. At the end of the day the citizen will pay the price,” Hayek said.
Most areas across Lebanon are experiencing severe power rationing.