Lebanon business community opposed to new wage hikes


General Union of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture chief Mohammad Shukair said on Thursday during an interview with MTV that the economic commissions “will take action to protest” the cabinet’s latest decision on the increase in minimum wages.

Shukair added: “Everything is possible. [We might] hold strikes and [even] head to the State Shura Council [to express our objection over the cabinet’s decision].”

“We cannot watch Lebanon’s economy collapsing due to a reckless political decision,” Shukair said.

This development comes after the Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah and Amal dealt a blow to PM Najib Mikati on Wednesday after voting in favor of a wage boost decree proposed by Labor Minister Charbel Nahhas hours after the Economic Committees and the General Labor Confederation agreed with minor changes to the previously approved proposal made by the PM.

Fifteen ministers voted in favor of Nahhas’ wage hike decree while 11 voted against it. Minister Wael Abou Faour abstained from voting while Ministers Salim Karam, Faisal Karami and Nazem al-Khoury did not attend the session that was held at Baabda palace.

The new cabinet decision calls for raising the minimum wage to LL868,000 from the current LL500,000 – a whopping 74% .

Workers earning less than LL1.5 million receive an 18 percent increase while salaries between LL1.5 million and LL2.5 million receive an additional 10 percent on the second salary bracket. No increase for wages above LL2.5 million.

The raise is retroactive to Dec. 1, 2011.

The approval of Nahhas’ plan came follows the meeting of Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, and FPM chief Michel Aoun.

The voting in favor of the proposal was seen by observers as an attempt by Hezbollah, FPM and Amal to deal a blow to Mikati who on Dec. 7 suggested another wage hike mechanism that received the approval of the Shura Council with minor amendments.

What is surprising according to observers is the fact that General Labor Confederation and the Economic Committees agreed ahead of Thursday’s cabinet session on a LL675,000 minimum wage deal and the GLC chief Ghassan Ghosn was happy about it and called off the strike.

Nahhas told al-Liwaa daily on Thursday that he would send the decree to the Shura Council and if it was approved, he would immediately publish it in the Official Gazette.

He also told OTV on Thursday that “the objections against his wage increase plan “are a very harmful media distortion.”

“No doubt that the project is a victory for the Free Patriotic Movement and for the Change and Reform bloc, but it is also a victory for the state Shura Council, which refused the two previous wage raise projects,” Nahhas told OTV.

Earlier this month the minimum wage was raised by the cabinet to 600,000 LL, but the labor Union was not happy with the increase and called for a strike .