Workers at Lebanon’s state fixed network provider Ogero on Friday began an “open-ended” strike in protest against pay freezes despite severe recent depreciation of the national currency.
Speaking to local newspaper The National, 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. Lebanon completely relies on Ogero for its bandwidth, leaving no one exempt from a blackout.”
Kreidieh noted that Lebanon’s two state mobile providers, Alfa and Touch, would also experience network blackouts, and called on the country’s parliament to address the workers’ demands when it convenes today, saying: “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.”
According to The National, the spiralling value of the Lebanese pound means that Ogero’s entire annual budget is now worth roughly US$4 million. This scarcely covers the cost of fuel for internet relay stations, leaving Ogero with little choice but to slash salary payments.
Last week, the Lebanese pound hit a record low of LBP100,000 to US$1. While the value has been slipping since an economic crisis that began in 2019, prior to this the same amount was worth approximately US$67.
The National quoted an Ogero union member as saying “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.”
As reported by CommsUpdate, Lebanon’s inflation rate was an astonishing 180% last month, far outstripping 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.