On Sunday, on 13 March 2011, part of the Week of Resistance of Israeli Apartheid and Colonialism, a valuable conference was held covering all aspects of employment in Lebanon, from abuse of Lebanese workers to abuse of migrant domestic workers to Palestinian refugees right to work in Lebanon.
It was moderated by Adib Bou Habib, Labor union activist for more than 45 years and editor of the Lebanese Monitor for Worker and Employee Rights
Rami Zurayk (minute 9) spoke on “Agricultural Workers in a Neoliberal Lebanon” stating that abuses are due to both Lebanese racism and the capitalist neoliberal system.
On Palestinian labour rights in Lebanon, Sohail Natour (minute 35) and Samer al-Ashqar (hour 1, minute 6) gave two concise and excellent talks covering the historic and recent legislative and political developments related to Palestinian employment in Lebanon.
Watch the video here. (It is 1 hour and 22 minutes long)
Here are some highlights. But before you read these highlights, note that Suheil Natour’s presentation was excellent! I could barely take highlights from it because it was all tremendous. I strongly encourage a good listen to that talk.
45 to 50% of Lebanese workers are denied social security by their employers.
Concorde, the “Lebanese” refrigerator factory, employs 500 workers — only 15 of whom are Lebanese.
Sukleen hires workers only on a 6-month contract. Upon employment, the workers have to pay $100 (to whom?). They live in 1 hangar, 300 people to 1 bathroom. They have to pay for their own health bills. They receive no pension. After 6 months, they are fired.
In Lebanon, it is primarily Syrian female farmworkers who harvest potatoes (as one example). They work from 5 am to 3 pm. They get paid 7,000 LL/day. [The price of a cup of coffee for a full day’s back-breaking hard labor.]
There are three job sectors that are denied the right to join a union in Lebanon: government workers, domestic workers, and farm workers.
Regarding Palestinians, why it is that Palestinians are regarded from a “security” angle in Lebanon – rather than from a humane, or humanitarian angle? Or rather from a contextual approach: i.e. they were forced from their homes by the same Zionist enemy that has been regularly bombing Lebanon!
One example of the unique discrimination status of Palestinians in Lebanon: When Oslo was signed, Qaddafi expelled Palestinians living in Libya. Those Palestinians with Syrian papers returned to Syria. Those with Jordanian papers returned to Jordan. But 500 Palestinians with papers from Lebanon were refused entry – re-entry – to Lebanon! Who ordered that refusal? Rafic Hariri – ordered it immediately. He demanded they request a visa to return to the very country that had issued them residency papers. Unheard of! At the same time, there was the Beijing Conference on Women’s Rights. At that conference were 8 Palestinian women with papers from Lebanon. They too were denied re-entry – and they were forced to remain in limbo in Cyrpus for a month and a half.
In 1982: 20 jobs were banned to Palestinians. Under the Syrian rule in Lebanon, 70 jobs were banned to Palestinians. Now, certain jobs are open to Palestinians in Lebanon with a job permit, and job permits are only issued for 3 years, and, on top of that, job permits are not issued.
Yet Palestinians must still pay for Social Security (ad-Daman el Ijtima3ee) although they get no benefits from it. For example, they are not covered for accidents on the job. UNRWA doesn’t cover those either.