Thousands of public sector employees and school teachers are marching in Beirut Tuesday to demand lucrative banks and big businesses pitch in to fund the wage hike bill in what could be one of the largest workers rallies to hit Lebanon in years.
The Union Coordination Committee (UCC) -- a conglomerate of public sector associations and schools -- has asked public and private schools and government offices across Lebanon to observe the one-day strike to rally for higher wages, Al-Akhbar reported.
The UCC is calling on Parliament to pass a bill that would increase the salary scale by 121%, and to fund it without raising taxes on basic goods.
"We will not accept to redeem our rights at the expense of the poor," Mahmoud Haidar, head of the public sector workers association, which falls under the umbrella of the UCC, told reporters at a press conference outside the Ministry of Education on Monday.
"The funds should be collected by imposing taxes on seafront properties and from banking and real estate revenues," he added.
The march kicked off outside Lebanon’s central bank at 11:00 am and moved to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Protesters are expected to end their march at Riad al-Solh Square near Parliament.
Protestors are holding banners and shouting slogans against Riad Salameh, the governor of Lebanon's central bank, and Lebanese deputies and politicians who are hindering or obstructing the legislation of a law that meets the protestors' demands.
People on balconies clapped as the increasing protestors filled up the street between Lebanon's central bank and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The sites were symbolically chosen to send a message to Lebanon’s wealthy classes that their time has come to contribute to the wage bill.
Big business has bitterly rejected proposals for them to help pay a salary bill. Banks across the country held a one-day strike earlier this month to let the government know it would not accept a proposal to fund the wage scale by adding a mere 2% tax on profits on their interest revenues.