La grève des fonctionnaires perturbe le traitement des marchandises au port

Civil servants’ strike disrupts cargo handling at the port

The open strike of public administration employees, which began last Monday, was palpable yesterday in the port of Beirut and Tripoli (Northern Lebanon), which are the only infrastructures equipped with container terminals. And in the capital, “hundreds of containers” of food and agricultural raw materials were closed, as yesterday, the head of the Food Importers Union, Hani Bohsali, and the head of the Food Importers Union, Mohamed Choucair, denounced in the relevant press releases. Activity in Tripoli was also affected, and for his part, the director of this infrastructure, Ahmed Tamer, confirmed in contact with Lorient-Le Jour. On the other hand, a source at Beirut International Airport said that the situation is “normal” with regard to air freight.

Food Safety

Both Hani Bohsali and Muhammad Shukair denounced the situation that endangers the food security of the Lebanese people, stressing their solidarity with the movement of employees. Accordingly, both called on the authorities to find an “emergency” solution to unload these containers and thus avoid the risk of shortage, while “1.3 million” tourists and expatriates are expected to arrive in Lebanon for the summer season, as Hani Bohsali indicated.

The latter, upon contact, estimated that the situation could continue “at least until the end of the week, as the civil servants planned to continue their strike.” According to him, some containers, the procedures of which have already been completed, were able to leave the port “while they are gone.” He also stressed that there is currently no “risk of shortage” in food products. Two well-informed sources confirmed, in a phone call, that the problem “did not come from the employees of the container terminal in Beirut or the employees in charge of managing the port.” The Union of Souls Merchants and Importers also came out, yesterday, in a press statement in this regard, highlighting the “heavy losses” recorded by the companies, and calling on the “Ministry of Economy, Ports Administration and Lebanese Customs to exempt them from this.” Souls imports transactions from any restrictions and finding a mechanism “to get containers out of the port. Without that, the tourist season would not be able to start.”

In light of a multi-dimensional crisis in Lebanon for nearly three years, this mobilization of public sector employees aims to demand measures from the state to help them face the crisis and the devaluation of the national currency, including increasing wages and pensions, aligning these incomes with prices and inflation, and guaranteeing transportation allowances. . The demands that the government ratify the Finance Law for the year 2022, while it was the last in the current matter since the legislative elections were held in mid-May. Yesterday, the Minister of Labor, Mustafa Bayram, confirmed that an increase in private sector wages is planned (see box).

Imported goods were not the only ones that accumulated in the capital’s port. Ibrahim Tarshishi, head of the Bekaa Farmers Syndicate, denounced on Sunday the fact that “tons of Lebanese fruits and vegetables” destined for export are stuck there as well and threatened targeted protests. In a call with Lorient Le Jour, Antoine Hoic, head of the farmers’ union, confirmed that the problem had been resolved yesterday by the employees who came to work to do so. The information confirmed by Ahmed Tamer confirmed that customs clearance procedures for agricultural products destined for export “have resumed in Beirut as in Tripoli.” The Secretary-General of Public Relations for the Federation of Farmers’ Unions in Lebanon, Ali Shoman, also called yesterday during a gathering of farmers in Zahle (Bekaa) the Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia, to “open their markets to Lebanese agricultural products. The National News Agency (ANI, official) reported a call for normalization of trade relations. Between Lebanon and the Gulf states, which have been decimated in recent years against the backdrop of regional tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Lebanese farmers have been suffering since April 2021 from the boycott of the export of their products decided by Riyadh.

Bread shortage in Tripoli

In addition to this new result of the crisis, long queues were formed again yesterday in front of the bakeries of Tripoli (Northern Lebanon), suffering from a lack of bread, while the people gathered in the street to demand the authorities’ move. According to our correspondent on the site, Michel Hallaq, the demonstrators demanded the police and the Ministry of Economy and Trade to “inspect bakeries that did not open”, and denounced the “humiliation” of this shortage, including the lack of fuel. Over the weekend, several Lebanese regions suffered from a shortage of fuel available in the market. Last weekend, the Nabatiyeh region also suffered from a shortage of bread, which fueled the black market where parcels were bought at double the official price.

In addition to this tense situation in Tripoli, the head of the Federation of Lebanon Bakers, Ali Ibrahim, held a press conference yesterday in southern Beirut, during which he denounced the accusations leveled against the sector, according to which bakers exploit the crisis to make a profit by storing subsidized flour while waiting for subsidies to be lifted. He transferred these accusations to the flour mills, which are currently closed due to a shortage of wheat due to the delay of the Banque du Liban in paying wheat imports. “It is shameful to announce that the flour stocks will remain for only thirty days,” he said, calling on the authorities to “guarantee supplies so that the bakeries can operate.”

On Friday, the outgoing Minister of Economy, Amin Salam, denounced the “thefts” committed by private sector actors in relation to the wheat subsidized by the Banque du Liban. The head of the Northern Workers’ Union, Shadi al-Sayed, had denounced the day before, “the smuggling of nearly 20% of the imported flour to Syria.” On May 6, the World Bank approved an emergency loan of $150 million to finance wheat imports, but the laws governing the deal still need to be passed by the newly elected parliament. The country fears for its food security for several months, especially with regard to wheat, after stopping imports of this grain from Ukraine and Russia, at war since the end of February.

The open strike of public administration employees, which began last Monday, was palpable yesterday in the port of Beirut and Tripoli (Northern Lebanon), which are the only infrastructures equipped with container terminals. And in the capital, “hundreds of containers” of food and agricultural raw materials were closed, …

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