Lebanon: GSTU pushes for COVID-19 response fund

13 April 2020 05:48

The General Services Employees Trade Unions of Lebanon (GSTU) called on the Lebanese government to establish a response fund to aid workers who have lost their jobs and other means of livelihood to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

GSTU General Secretary Antoun Antoun said that the fund should be managed by an independent, transparent and credible body and the implementing body should create branches in the districts and provinces to ensure the success of this effort.

“This fund should provide relief for groups that have lost wages or income and need financial and social support to secure their livelihood, medicinal needs and basic goods. One cannot differentiate between urban and rural while many nations across the globe have allocated large amounts of financial, humanitarian in such a crisis,” Antoun stressed.  

In a bid to contain the spread of the virus, the government declared a state of national disaster, preventing all gatherings, social, economic and commercial activities, except essential movement and services. People have been asked to stay at home and observe social distancing until 13 April. This, however, has exacerbated the country’s unemployment problem and worsened workers’ living and working conditions. 

The GSTU has also had to protect workers affected by measures to control the spread of the disease. The union signed an agreement with Holcim Lafarge to pay its workers, including daily wage earners, their full wages up to the 29 March 2020. The agreement was reached after Holcim Lafarge decided to suspend all its production and manufacturing activities due to the health crisis. 

Lebanon has been suffering from a chronic economic and social crisis, which worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic. The GSTU is concerned that the massive national debt incurred over the past several decades due to corruption and political sectarianism will affect the ability of the country to fight COVID 19.