Workers at state-run fixed network provider Ogero began an ‘open ended strike’ on Friday in protest against pay freezes reflecting the sharp depreciation of the nation’s currency
Speaking to The National newspaper, Ogero chairman Imad Kreidieh said, ‘We are heading to a catastrophe if a deal is not found with the government: the network will completely stop working as our generators will gradually run out of fuel.’ Kreidieh warned that ‘Lebanon completely relies on Ogero for its bandwidth, leaving no one exempt from a blackout,’ noting that both state MNOs Alfa and Touch would be effected.
Kreidieh also called on parliament to address workers demands, as it convened yesterday stating “The issue of public servants’ salary is supposed to be on the table. We will see what comes from the session: maybe politicians need a sudden blackout to realise how important the telecom sector is.”
The National’s report highlighted how the country’s currency crisis has slashed Ogero’s budget to USD4 million – barely enough to cover expenses for fuel required to operate internet relay stations leading to drastic salary cuts. Lebanon’s currency hit a record low last week, with LBP100,000 now only worth USD1 as opposed to USD67 before the onset of the economic crisis in 2019. The report also quoted an Ogero union member as “our salary is worth nothing because of the currency collapse, our demands are the same as other public sector employees: we want our salaries to be tied to the dollar.”
The country’s rampant inflation rate, currently at 180%, has far outstripped any financial aid afforded to public servants or pay increments on salaries. In a statement last week, Ogero employees invited contractors and non-salaried workers to join them in downing tools “given the continuous disregard for our demands to amend salaries”, which they claimed “are now equivalent to 1%” of their former value.