Electricite du Liban (EDL) contract daily workers blocked roads across Lebanon after Internal Security Forces (ISF) arrested four of their colleagues during a protest that ended up in violence in the southern city of Tyre.
National News Agency reported that the arrests took place when protesting workers clashed with the security personnel who tried to open the company’s doors, which were closed by the workers .
The arrest led angry workers to block more roads with burning tires in Jwayya, Bint Jbeil, Sidon and Tyre, Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) reported
It added that the protesters at the company’s headquarters in Beirut gave security forces a one-hour deadline to release their colleagues.
Earlier Monday, the workers held a sit-in at the entrance used by EDL’s Director General Kamal al-Hayek in Beirut’s Mar Mikhael neighborhood.
The contract daily workers started an open-ended strike last Wednesday after accusing the state-run firm of not abiding by the law following a decision for the employment of only 897 out of the 2,000 workers.
The workers erected tents at the company’s HQ and several of its branches, and closed its doors to stop any employee from going inside.
But al-Hayek said on Thursday that EDL was not a “barn” and denied that the law allowed all contract workers to become full-time employees.
According to analysts EDL is a huge burden for Lebanon because its is heavily subsidized . Many of the contract employees do not show up at work , they go there just to clock in and leave to work elsewhere or do nothing . The only problem is that those that don’t show up are backed by influential politicians such as Speaker Nabih Berri (who is in turn backed by Hezbollah ) and cannot be fired even though they are contract hourly workers .
The analysts stressed that EDL is an inefficient operation that should be privatized or shut down because it cannot continue to drag down the Lebanese economy. Most of the deficit is related to the EDL subsidy.
The analysts added: While all electric utility companies in the world are profitable, in Lebanon EDL has proved to be a loser. It takes the company months to send the bill , terribly inefficient in collections and in preventing power thefts.
EDL put many small time operators in business because it is unable to provide 24 hour electricity despite the heavy subsidies. The small time operators usually provide power to their subscribers using small inefficient diesel Generator sets that pollute the Lebanese towns and villages
In Lebanon power blackouts are a daily affair . It is normal to have anywhere between 12 -16 hour daily blackouts in Lebanon, even in the tourist resorts of Mt Lebanon.