Yesterday there was a call for solidarity with the daily contract workers from the electricity company: 3000 workers are about to be laid off. The contract workers have been struggling for their right to have a (their) fixed job. Many of these workers have been on daily contracts for 18 years with zero benefits and rights. Recently the minister of energy and power decided to privatize the electricity company. For him, this is not only a lucrative deal with a lucrative percentage (for his own pocket), but results in getting rid of 3000 daily contract workers, i.e. risking the well being of 3000 families.
The daily contract workers have been gathering at the head quarters of Electricity of Lebanon, and have been having a sit-in: women, men, young and old, from the south, the north, east and west of the country refusing to be sold.
Yesterday while we were mingling with the workers, at their sit-in, the general Lebanese scene was vivid. This protest is a minimized image of the Lebanese situation as a whole. The workers, Lebanese people from all walks of life, from all sects and regions, broke the barriers and boundaries drawn by the Lebanese politician(s), and united for one cause: their right to keep their jobs. They reject being sold.
The daily contract workers at the electricity company are another chance for change in this failed country. They are showing the rest of the Lebanese people that it’s time to break the sectarian barriers and unite against a corrupt business owned state and government.
Yet the minister of energy and power Gibran Bassil is calling them names and accusing them of occupation of a public (dysfunctional) building. Two days ago the minister’s political party, The Free Patriotic Movement, sent their partisans to attack the daily contract workers. The attacks as described by the workers were a full act of thugery. Free Patriotic Movement supporters hurled stones at the peaceful protesters and yesterday the workers were expecting another wave of attacks. The contract workers gathered some sticks and stones for self defense. Hassan, a worker protesting, told me “we are not violent, we don’t want to fight, but if they want to come here and attack our peaceful sit-in then we will have to defend ourselves.”
Workers kept coming out to the street to see if the minister’s supporters were coming to attack them luckily last night passed in peace but who knows what other measures the minister will deploy to get rid of the protesting workers.
In addition, a technician explained yesterday that the randomness and severity of power cuts that we have been experiencing are being done on purpose on the orders of the minister; a move to create bitterness and hate by the Lebanese people towards the protesting workers.
The electricity contract workers’ protest is a noble fight for rights and dignity in the face of business owned politicians who use sectarianism to divide and conquer.