BEIRUT: A major Lebanese trade union is to hold a general strike on Friday over living conditions and the political gridlock roiling the country.
Lebanon has no government eight months after an election, with rival parties fighting over Cabinet positions and Sunni representation in the country’s sectarian power-sharing system.
The gridlock has heaped further pressure on the country’s economy, which is saddled with high levels of debt, and there have been protests about unemployment, taxes and living costs.
Bechara Asmar, from the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers, said the strike would last for hours and that there would be no street protests.
Economic bodies condemned the strike, saying it would inflict “significant damage” on business because of its proximity to the Armenian Christmas Eve celebrated the following day.
Mohamed Choucair, the president of the Lebanese economic organizations, urged all firms to consider Friday a normal working day.
People should continue to work and prevent further losses and “protect institutions, workers and the national economy so as not to incur heavy losses that the economy cannot afford,” he said.
He also cast doubt on the objectives of the strike, adding the formation of the government remained the first demand of all economic bodies.
Political parties were quick to meet with union representatives to understand the reasons for the industrial action.
Asmar, following a meeting with the Progressive Socialist Party, said: “The strike aims to pressure for the immediate formation of a government and is not directed against anyone nor does it carry a message for anyone.”
Kataeb Party leader MP Samy Gemayel apologized for the hardships people were facing because of the political impasse.
“The people are suffering and there are families that cannot afford fuel oil for heating. People are hungry and in pain, and the economy is on the verge of collapse. Is it acceptable for us to remain without a government because of the dispute over a minister?”
Tourism Minister Awadis Kedianian, from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) or Dashnak party, also met Asmar.
The minister said: “Forming the government would support Lebanon’s presence on the global tourism map, and a delay in its formation would harm this.”
ARF was committed to supporting the public and refusing to commit to the strike implied indifference, he added.