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Teachers March in Lebanon

The Lebanon Daily Star

Teachers March in LebanonBEIRUT -- Hundreds of teachers and public sector employees took to the streets Wednesday, in a march organized by the Union Coordination Committee to protest against the Cabinet's failure to refer a new public sector salary scale to Parliament.

The march kicked off at 11 am from Beirut's Barbir square and ended at the Grand Serail in Down Beirut. Teachers cheered slogans against the Cabinet, lifting banners claiming their right to a salary increase.

"Where is the wage scale, you Cabinet of postponed promises?" cheered the protestors, before settling outside the government building in the heart of the city.

The UCC, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees, has been staging several protest movements and strikes, to pressure the Cabinet into referring an increase in salaries to Parliament.

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The Cabinet, which says it is mulling several tax proposals to finance the funds of the possible increase of salaries, has failed to refer the bill to Parliament and said it needs to hold further discussions on how to finance the wages' hike before adopting it.

Addressing the gathering outside the Serail, Nehmeh Mahfoud, the head of the Association of Private Schools Teachers, said the public sector workers can no longer tolerate any further delay in referring the bill to Parliament.

"We can no longer tolerate the Cabinet's procrastination which has been going on for more than a year. People have grown tired of false promises," said Mahfoud.

Mahfoud urged the Cabinet to impose more taxes on coastal property to secure the funding of salaries and limit corruption in Lebanon's institutions.

"If salaries lead to the collapse of the country, then what does corruption?" asked Mahfoud.

He also threatened that the UCC will paralyze public institutions every time the Cabinet convenes until the coalition's demands are met.

In remarks to As-Safir published Wednesday, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said the Cabinet will not tackle the wage scale in its Wednesday session held at Baabda's Presidential Palace. Mikati reiterated once again that the government needs to develop a solution before resolving the matter.

The UCC has continuously slammed Mikati and accused him of manipulating teachers and procrastinating in meeting their demands.

The country's Economic Committees stand firm against the wage scale and warn that an increase of salaries, if adopted, would inflict major losses over both public and private sectors. ___