Electricity workers in Lebanon, and the fate of labour, national development, and governance

Publishing Date: 
June, 2015
Socio-Economic Rights Base, Conflict Analysis Project
Author(s): Yazan al-Saadi
As eyes were peeled elsewhere in 2012, Lebanon was experiencing significant developments. The most notable of these moments within the Lebanese front were the demonstrations and push-backs by various labour movements against political and economic structures that have dominated the state for so long.
Keywords: Collective Action, Workers, Electricite Du Liban

To cite this paper: Yazan al-Saadi,"", Civil Society Knowledge Centre, Lebanon Support, 2015-06-01 00:00:00. doi: 10.28943/CSKC.002.30002

[ONLINE]: https://civilsociety-centre.org/content/electricity-workers-lebanon-and-fate-labour-national-development-and-governance
Cited by: 1
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As eyes were peeled elsewhere in 2012, Lebanon was experiencing significant developments. The most notable of these moments within the Lebanese front were the demonstrations and push-backs by various labour movements against political and economic structures that have dominated the state for so long.

Partly energised by the regional uprisings that began in Tunisia in the winter of 2010, and also arising from simmering domestic factors such as the erosion of labour and socio-economic rights, problematic developmental policies, frustrations over widespread corruption, dysfunctional governance, and more, the various labour movements' actions culminated in 2012, then sputtered forward along sporadic and fragmented patterns to this day.

Among this tapestry of mobilisations by different labour sectors, all significant in their own right, the struggle of the Electricité du Liban's (EDL) daily and contract workers demands special consideration.  

The importance of this specific movement stems not only from the fact that these workers represent a very vulnerable, yet large segment of workers in Lebanon who are outside of the protective umbrella of main labour unions; but also from the fact that the dissenting strategies, internal policies and demands voiced by the workers hit a peculiar nerve of the political and business elites and other benefactors of the current status quo.

The workers had, perhaps unwittingly, challenged core political and economic structures by creating solidarity across sectarian lines that circumvented  traditional patronage systems, sectarian-political and economic institutions in Lebanon. Indeed, they publicly and unabashedly highlighted the dysfunction and corruption of the state. Moreover, the struggle took place in the electric power sector – a lucrative sector that was historically tied to, and often reflected, the prestige and authority of the powers dominating Lebanon.1 It is no wonder then, that the authorities responded with immense hostility, and deployed tactics to isolate, fragment, and annihilate the nascent worker's movement.2 Despite the ultimate failure of the movement to achieve its key goals (described below), it left an important and lasting legacy.

In describing the aftermath of the EDL's workers actions of 2012, particularly that they were able to hold the longest labour strike in the modern history of Lebanon (amounting to 94 days), the Lebanese Observatory for the Rights of Workers and Employees stated:

And even so the battle which the daily workers have fought for remains, shining a marker, in one form or another, in the history of the worker's struggle in Lebanon, opening a wide door ahead to begin mobilising thousands of daily and contractual workers and on-demand workers within state institutions, facilities, and departments.3

To truly grasp the scope of this movement, and the issues it touches upon, context is key – especially that of domestic, regional, and historical factors.  

A brief recounting of Lebanese electricity

From its beginnings, electricity in Lebanon was associated with authority and control. The first electricity-generating project was established in Beirut in 1906 during the tail end of the Ottoman Empire under the institution called, The Société Anonyme Ottomane des Tramways et de l’Électricité de Beyrouth. It was initially concerned with providing electricity to the tramway network, but gradually spread to selected businesses and enterprises.4

As the Ottoman empire lost hold of the Bilad al-Sham region after World War I, the rise of the French mandate meant that power-generation fell into the hands of French-owned businesses. The company was first named La Société des Tramways et de l’Éclairage de Beyrouth, and then was changed to Électricité de Beyrouth. Électricité de Beyrouth was the largest electricity company operating in the country – out of around thirty others by the early 1950s – servicing power not only to Beirut but also the surrounding areas.5 

Because of its association with France, Électricité de Beyrouth was a common site of protest, or was the target of collective action, whenever there were political demands (calls for the end of the mandate) or discontent over economic problems (anger over the rise of prices).6 Electricity was also a rallying theme exploited by certain elites “in hopes of further advancing their own political and corporate ambitions” during and after the French mandate. The desire for control of electricity seemed to directly correlate with the proliferation of electricity”.7 Interestingly enough, the proliferation was conducted in a convoluted and uneven manner, with power outages and unstable voltages being commonplace despite the usual assurances of the company's owners –  this characteristic remains untouched nearly a century later.

The inefficient nature of power generation and high electricity prices, coupled with political grievances against the independent Lebanese government, produced a massive protest campaign in 1951-1952 that demanded that the state takes immediate steps to address these matters. The result was the provisional governmental control of Électricité de Beyrouth in 1953, where subscription prices were restructured and notably, a rationing system on a rotating basis was formalised – a system that would reappear after the destructive Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006. Furthermore, a growing Lebanese population and thousands upon thousands of Palestinian refugees created further strains on an already weak grid.8

The nationalisation of electricity, as academic Ziad Abu-Rish noted in his brief description of Lebanese electricity's history, produced more problems than solutions, namely due to the overbearingly bureaucratic structure of the Lebanese state.

Abu-Rish wrote:

[I]t is worth mentioning that the nationalisation of Électricité de Beyrouth resulted in the creation of an Electricity and Public Transportation Authority within the Ministry of Public Works for the management of the former’s facilities and services. It is this authority that represented the institutional origins of what would later become a state-owned enterprise and independent ministry, currently known as Électricité du Liban and the Ministry of Power and Water, respectively. Much of the contemporary debates about the failure to adequately address the electricity problem highlight the overlapping and conflictual prerogatives of different government entities that entangle the ability to take decisive action regarding the electricity sector within bureaucratic and political webs of competing influence. A close analysis of the structure of the Electricity and Public Transportation Authority established in 1954 and its subsequent metamorphoses highlights some of the reasons behind such entanglement.9 

By July 1964, the Électricité du Liban (EDL) was formally established as a public institution administered by the newly-established Ministry of Power and Water.10 As Abu-Rish noted above, the running of EDL greatly meshed with political competitions, and quick decisions were slowed by the weight of a costly bureaucratic institution. Much of the problems of the past still remained, however new problems, particularly state corruption and worker's rights were beginning to show. These lingering issues would either be placed on hold or be exacerbated by the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war in 1975.

The 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war – with its inter-Lebanese and Palestinian fighting, brutal Israeli invasion and occupation, and violence by Syrian forces – was devastating for the entire country, including its electrical network. Power plants and electrical networks were extensively damaged, power systems were strained, and EDL experienced immense financial losses.11

As the war ended with the Taif Accord, reshaping the political and sectarian structure of the Lebanese government and opening the way for a joint Syrian-Saudi supremacy on the country, the electricity sector was to face yet another stage of transformation.

From the onset of 1990, the power grid had to be reconstructed, but that was quickly faced with a number of obstacles.  

First of all, throughout the 1990s, nearly $2 billion were spent in rehabilitating and constructing upgrades for the power grid, yet a significant portion of the funds were siphoned off for kick-backs and other forms of corruption.12 The fact that EDL was a “public institution” meant that it was highly susceptible to exploitation by the political class to appeal to and develop their constituency – these include such acts as providing free electricity to constituents, allocating jobs through wasta (the exploitation of personal connections), and the like.

Secondly, privatisation in Lebanon was presented as a solution to all the woes, regardless of the inherent problems the act of privatisation produced. The mantra of privatisation is reflective of a time when the US and its political and economic ideologies held (and still do, to a degree) a global monopoly, ideologically and practically, following the fall of the Soviet Union. The pressure to privatise came from both the domestic and foreign fronts, with individuals like Rafik Hariri and organisations like the International Monetary Fund, that often collided with other political elites over the question of “who benefits?” and “could a “private” pie be shared?”.

The 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon added more woes to the power grid, which had already been a target for the Israeli forces for decades. Particularly in 2006, Israel was quite gleeful in launching strikes not only on military targets, but also directing attacks on civilian infrastructure, including residences, bridges, schools, and of course power plants. The damages were a huge setback for the construction gains made after the Lebanese civil war, hence resulting in a return of the daily rationing system in Beirut.

By 2014, the main problems afflicting EDL for decades were yet to be solved, despite the fact that around $27 billion were paid out by the government – in other words, almost $2 billion annually, about 40 percent of the total Lebanese public debt, or roughly 55 percent of the gross national product.13 

On top of that, EDL barely provides two-thirds of the necessary electricity supply for a 24-hour work day, causing further economic losses amounting to billions.14 Lebanon produces only 1,500 megawatts – in order to cover its domestic needs, it needs to produce at least double or triple that amount. As noted by Mohamed Wehbe, writing for the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar in November 2012, “out of the total of 744 hours in October, power was rationed for 381 hours nationally, which means that the electricity was cut 51 percent of the time in most of Lebanon. In the summer months, it was even worse, as rationing increased to 55 percent, i.e. 410 hours, according to the Ministry's numbers.”15

The lack of electricity required the reliance on two Turkish ships supplying some electricity off the shore of Lebanon, but, more importantly, meant the stellar rise of a generator industry – an industry based on the provision of power generators to apartments and businesses, which churns out around $1.2 billion annually and tends to be heavily tied with political elites. The “class of generator owners” charge around $100-300 per month for a subscription to their generators in a neighborhood, and are often opposed to actually fixing the electrical grid. In one case, in Zahle, generator companies strongly opposed plans to provide 24-hour electricity to the small town.

“It didn’t take long for owners of electricity generator companies to vehemently reject a plan by Electricité de Zahle [EDZ] to provide areas under its jurisdiction with 24 hours of power. Claiming their primary source of income would be affected, the owners threatened to escalate their street protests should the EDZ implement the plan,” the Lebanese Daily Star reported on the matter.16

Such was the general state of Lebanese electricity.

The Workers in the Power Sector

It must be apparent, therefore, that the workers in the electricity sector were trapped in a very perplexing and convoluted environment.

EDL employs around 2,300 workers, mainly through casual or daily contracts. This number hasn't changed for decades, even though EDL publicly acknowledges that the company needs more than 5,000 workers to service more than a million subscribers.

The daily or casual workers do not get any social security, pension, insurance, benefits, and are banned from forming unions or going on strikes. They do not have any representation, other than through the traditional sectarian-political parties, such as the Amal Movement (whose leaders self-proclaimed the political party as representative of a large swath of the workers, since most of them are categorized as Shia). Their work ranges from office work, picking up payments, to the more dangerous technical job of fixing and running the power grid.

Many of them began work in the 1990s, and have usually not been offered any sort of training when they were first hired, nor are they provided with any protective gear to conduct dangerous work. Prior to the Lebanese civil war, EDL workers were claimed to be the most highly paid among state employees, but today they receive on average $1200-1300 for contracted workers, while daily workers receive a standard salary of $530 per month paid on a daily basis by cash.17

“From the day we started working [in the 1990s] to today, the same problems, the same dilemmas, the same pressures, the same regressions,” Loubnan Makhoul stated in an interview with the author.18 “Growth in the company, or even being hired, wasn't based on merit but was related to wasta. The good employee would slowly lose faith and stops working well, or they would sit on the side and watch this mess.”

Regardless of these very apparent issues, individuals chose to work in EDL, according to Makhoul, because of limited options in finding sustainable work in Lebanon.

“[Workers] had to kiss a hundred asses to survive. They did that to get a job or to influence how they were dispersed in the company,” Farah Kobaissy, an activist-academic, who was part of the Lebanese Observatory for the Rights of Workers and Employees during the 2012 strike, said. “We saw that the workers were hollowed out of their rights and had limited options to organise.”19

The situation was pretty miserable, and occasional protests by the workers were launched sporadically prior to 2012. But 2012 was exceptional due to local and regional dynamics that fed into each other.

On the regional level, most of the surrounding countries were experiencing major challenges by the public. In cases like Egypt, Bahrain and Tunisia, workers and unions were at the forefront, bringing forward class and economic issues as parts and parcels of social and political demands against the many authoritarian states.20 The regional mobilisations doubtlessly encouraged movements on the Lebanese front, paradoxically building networks across borders, and fragmented traditional subservient unions and institutions between those who wanted change and those who do not.

In 2012, Lebanon not only experienced an array of protests on social and political issues, but a lot of strikes and protests also arose in regards to labour and economic rights. 2012 witnessed strikes and workers’ attempts to unionize in major retail store Spinneys, in Casino du Liban, in currency exchange stores, in public schools, amongst migrant workers, and more. There were mobilisations to challenge rent prices, calls for raising the minimum wage, revolutionise the unions, etc.

The scene was ripe for the electricity workers to conduct their own actions, which began in 2011, and culminated in the spring of 2012 into what is now considered the longest strike in Lebanon's modern history.

94 Days of Discontent and Its Legacy

The electricity workers basically wanted to evolve from “daily” or “casual” workers to contracted full-time employees within the EDL, which would automatically entail benefits, privileges, and compensation. Most importantly, it would ensure job security.

While this demand has been articulated for decades, the workers really began to organise themselves in 2004 with the establishment of a committee to represent this cause.21 Quite often, EDL and the government shrugged aside and stifled these demands, pointing to the stalling matter of privatisation, instability of the country which included a paralyzed government, and even used the argument that employing all the daily workers as full-timers would tip the delicate sectarian balance enforced within EDL.22

But in 2012, already an electrifying year in the country and its surroundings, things dramatically changed for the EDL staff.

According to Loubnan Makhoul:  

In all the twenty years I've been in EDL, there was always movements for claims, however because the situation wasn't dangerous to the point that you could have lost your job from EDL we always thought that the situation was bearable since your livelihood is somewhat secure. But in 2012, when the [private] electricity provider companies were established, we suddenly felt that our fates were threatened because the contract between EDL and these companies stated that the companies would take all the workers on the condition that they were employed under a three-month probation, and then they would fully employ those they need. The studies at the time showed that these companies only needed 30 percent of the total work force, that meant that 70 percent of them will be out on the street. Always when danger knocks on your door, you start to act, never before. This is what happened, and we started to act.23 

The workers self-organised and set up a new committee representing a general assembly. One of their first decisions was to send questions to the relevant stakeholders in order to clarify their future. They also wanted to know if their years of experience in EDL, some of them having worked there for decades, was worth anything – as in if it entailed benefits, compensation, or anything else. When things did not progress further, they decided to go on strike, the date: May 2nd, 2012.

The public display of dissent by the workers, such as strikes, camp-ins, tyre burning, and closing off main roads, could not be ignored by the government. For one thing, it was public, and for another, the workers' actions and situations pointed to the ongoing failures and dysfunctions of the Lebanese political and economic system.

In turn, the authorities started to act. One of the first proposals for a “solution” came from the Minister of Energy and Water Gebran Bassil, a member of the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian political party aligned with Hezbollah.

“The Minister's plan,” according to Al-Akhbar journalist Rasha Abouzaki on May 29th, “allows 700 workers out of 2,500 to become full-time employees with benefits after undergoing civil service department exams. The exams put these contract workers, who have worked at EDL for 20 years and left college tens of years ago, up against new graduates and applicants with connections.”24

It was immediately rejected by the committee representing the workers. The fact of the matter is that they all wanted employment and their basic rights. More so, the “solution” by Bassil was made without any consultation with the workers. Indeed, he was not even willing to speak to or shake hands with members of the workers’ committee.

Bassil then began to use a sectarian and security discourse in order to delegitimise the strikers, even though the strikers were from all sects, and included members of Bassil's party. The Minister's threats and vilification against the workers were complemented by the unleashing of thugs from the Free Patriotic Movement to harass and break-up sit-ins.25 

The stand-off sparked a large public debate about labour rights, governmental corruption, the merits of privatization, amongst other important issues that are imperative for the country. But it also fragmented and divided many of those one would have thought to be natural allies to the striking workers.

In a general sense, most of the leftist and liberal groups in Lebanon did not reach out to the strikers. The Democratic Youth Union, one of the key groups, didn't think of joining the strike, at best, or was too fragile to face any direct pressures by the authorities, at worst.

“When it is a direct attack on the system, the left frays apart and sectarianism grows,” Walid Daou, a member of the leftist Socialist Forum, one of the few organizations that was supporting the workers during the strikes.26 “And since there is no viable alternative, ideological forces play a powerful role,” he added. 

Moreover, there was barely any solidarity from other workers, whether out of choice or due to restrictions. Tensions also grew between contracted workers and daily workers, and between the workers and their political parties – especially Amal, led by parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who attempted to quell the workers' strike in different ways, and who saw the strikes as threatening towards the privatisation process that was slowly being implemented.

Unions, as well, were generally unsupportive. Since the end of the civil war, unions in Lebanon have been generally weakened due to the sectarian system, and their continuous absence allows the sectarian system to persist and grow. They are also governed mainly by men – which is striking considering that a significant portion of the total workforce in Lebanon are women – who are more concerned with maintaining their position than with challenging the system.

The only union supporting the strikers at the time was the Federation of Lebanese Workers Unions (FENASOL), which built a relationship with some of the electricity workers after the Lebanese civil war. According to Castro Abdallah, president of FENASOL:

In the 1990s, there was a policy pushed forward by the World Bank and Rafik Hariri that restricted employment in the public sector, we got involved with the electricity workers around then and started supporting them whenever there were tensions with the administration. When they were talking about only employing hundreds of people [in 2012], and we witnessed attempts by various political parties to use the striking workers as a political card, we had to get involved on the workers' side. We stood in solidarity, and tried to pressure the political parties that our members were part of to solve the issue.27

FENASOL's support, while important, was still limited in terms of personnel and funds, and it could not alone provide complete cover from political pressures.  

Major unions only became involved at the end, when attempts to end the strike were at the zenith, and mainly in order to enforce a "solution" that was being imposed by authorities.

The strike ultimately was forced to end due to a “political agreement.” Before such an agreement was made, a big blow occurred against the strikers who had in their possession a cache of electricity receipts that were not handed in, and which constituted an important asset considered to grant them the upper hand against EDL. Mysteriously, the cache was whisked away from the strikers one night during the final period of the strike, and in one swoop, the balance of power tipped away from them.

Ultimately, the various political parties, including major unions, secretly met and hammered out a political agreement, which was then used to put an end to the workers' strike. The political agreement between Berri and Bassil, as well as Minister of labour Salim Jreissati, EDL's management, and the union, called for an immediate end to the strike, promising not to persecute the organisers, pledging to discuss the matter in parliament, and passing a law that would finally deal with the fate of EDL's daily and casual workers.28

For the workers, who were becoming fragmented by the “political agreement”, it was becoming apparent that they had not achieved their goals.

In writing about the aftermath of the strike, journalist Rasha Abouzaki noted:

Many fear that the law will be left in a back drawer “to be emptied later from any content.” Others wanted to re-evaluate the blatantly discriminatory wages and salary grades. They also want to help those who do not work in collection or distribution, and who remain as contract workers.

All these demands are now out of context. “The revolution is over,” as one of them says.

“We were afraid of a veto against us, so we asked to be included in the political deal that ended the strike,” he explained. To be included meant they had to enter the companies in high positions, according to one committee member.

He maintains that after the decision to end the strike, but before it was implemented, some committee members visited the Amal Movement, that broke the strike, and demanded to know their fate so they don’t end up being scapegoats.”

They told them that their positions in the companies “were guaranteed” and that they “would be better off than the others.”29

Three private companies,30 linked to Bassil, Berri, and many other elites, were chosen to take on the workers and distribution services of EDL, signifying that privatisation was in full swing despite the vocalised concerns of the workers. Moreover, plans for written examinations for employment surfaced once again as the only viable option. The strike was forced to end in August.   

Clearly, the daily and casual workers were not among the final victors that day, at least not entirely.

The 2012 strike's legacy, and the fate of Lebanese labour and development

The 2012 strike had mixed effects and impacts.

On the one hand, the strike and the experience of the workers showed a clear lack of alternatives to the sectarian-political system in place. Traditional unions, leftists, liberals, and the likes who should have been natural allies to the daily and casual workers' cause were mostly invisible from the scene, afraid or too weak to do anything substantial, or even actively worked with powerful stakeholders to undermine and weaken the movement.

For both Loubnan Makhoul and Castro Abdallah, the events in 2012 clearly revealed who really cared for the workers, and showed that within unions and the general labour movement, personalities were more concerned about maintaining their prestigious positions rather than actually challenging the system – not to mention that they are not representative of the larger labour population, whether due to the fact that there are barely any women in a leading role in these organisations, or that the leadership tends to be utterly disconnected from the ground.

The failure of these groups ensured that the struggle against privatisation, worker's rights, and similar actions would, in a general sense, be weakened. Without a sense of solidarity, reaching across job sectors, ideological alignments or personal interests, any action by any party would not be as impactful as it could be.

Walid Daou pointed towards the failures of the Teacher's Union and other labour movements in the following years, indicating a combination of “demonstration exhaustion” and lack of ties that should have been built around massive actions like the 2012 strike. In a way, the forced end of the 2012 electricity strike could be perceived as a dress rehearsal of the authorities' undermining and challenging of other strikes that were to come.  

But on the other hand, the matter would not end there. While the movement in 2012 seemed to have predominantly failed, it did leave a lasting mark.  

A year and a half later, in early 2014, the electricity workers began to mobilise again.31 The transfer to private companies did not really solve anything, and most critically, did not ensure job security. In fact, sporadic protests erupted over cases in which the private companies began laying off a handful of workers, in addition to the fact that the politicians were backtracking on passing a law granting the workers full-time employment.32

This resulted in three months of action by the workers, composed of the usual strikes, sit-ins, burning tires, and one new development: the occupation of EDL's headquarters.33  Because of these actions, the EDL started blaming the workers for an increase of power outages in the country, regardless of a lack of any evidence that suggests a link between the strikers and the increased power cuts.34 This round ended once again when the political parties came together for another political agreement, re-emphasising written examinations and noting that EDL's management is willing to employ more than 800 workers full-time.

Those pledges were not enough, and strikes continued in various forms in 2015, and still persist at the time of this writing.35

This implies that despite all the obstacles, barriers, isolation, fragmentation and threats at work, and even when authorities rely on the bastion of sectarianism or prioritise economic-political interests over rights, it will not be enough to hold back discontent. As long as the core issues are not adequately dealt with there will always be resistance in one form or another.

“While we did mistakes during these last three years, we did do something, and we will continue to do more over time. Perhaps we can form a democratic union, or perhaps we can pressure for better treatment in other ways. I am generally against privatisation in Lebanon because the situation here is very corrupt. I'm exhausted and now I'm slowly scaling back my involvement. But as long as there's a form of injustice, sectarianism won't matter, and people will act,” Makhoul asserted.36

Concluding remarks

The fate of the electricity workers is a microscopic reflection of the grander fate of labour rights movement in Lebanon, if not the entire region. Workers are being regressed by state and economic forces and the way they weather these challenges is a strong indication of how the labour sector will fare in the near future. What is universally clear is that without representation or solidarity, these struggles will be doomed – but at the same time they will always reappear.

On another front, and more specific to Lebanon, is the fact that the continual dysfunctions of the electricity sector - one that is tied to political and economic power as well as being one that affects everyone in Lebanon regardless of sect, creed, or ethnicity - offers great potential to be a national rallying point by those who seek to challenge the present state of affairs. This fact, in particular, terrifies those who currently benefit from the sectarian system. By breaking through the fragmentation of Lebanese society, and tapping into a problem that has national dimensions, the state of electricity can offer an inclusive platform for major changes in the near future.

Until something of that sort occurs, the pillaging and exploitation of a deteriorating electrical system will continue,37 and with it, the haemorrhaging of public funds and ongoing lapse of basic labour rights.

  • 1. Ziad Abu-Rish, “On Power Cuts, Protests, and Institutions: A Brief History of Electricity in Beirut (Part One),” Jadaliyya, April 22, 2014, available at: http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/17416/on-power-cuts-protests-and-institutions_a-brief-hi [last accessed April 20, 2015]
  • 2. Hisorically, this has been the policy adopted by the Lebanese regime or its sponsors towards labour unions. See Marie-Noëlle AbiYaghi, Civil Mobilisation and Peace in Lebanon”, in Elisabeth Picard, Alexander Ramsbotham, Reconciliation, reform and resilience. Positive Peace for Lebanon, Accord Publications, Issue 24, London, July 2012; Marie-Noëlle AbiYaghi, Myriam Catusse, « Non à l’Etat holding, oui à l’Etat providence: Logiques et contraintes des mobilisations sociales dans le Liban de l’après-guerre», in « Protestations sociales, révolutions civiles. Transformation du politique dans la Méditerranée arabe », Revue Tiers Monde, hors série mai 2011.
  • 3. “Demonstrations and labour Issues in Lebanon in 2012, the first annual report,” Lebanese Observatory for the Rights of Workers and Employees, March 2013, available at: https://daleel-madani.org/sites/default/files/Resources/report-marsad.pdf [last accessed: April 14, 2015].
  • 4. Ziad Abu-Rish, “On Power Cuts, Protests, and Institutions: A Brief History of Electricity in Beirut (Part One),” Jadaliyya, April 22, 2014, available at: http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/17416/on-power-cuts-protests-and-institutions_a-brief-hi [last accessed April 20, 2015].
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. Ibid.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. This was done through Decree No. 16878 dated July 10, 1964. The EDL's About page presents a very brief and sterile company profile, available at: http://www.edl.gov.lb/AboutEDL.htm [last accessed April 14, 2015].
  • 11. Rami Ariss, “'Power Ships' Keeping Lebanon's Grid Afloat,” Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative, March 24, 2014, available at: http://berc.berkeley.edu/power-ships-keeping-lebanons-grid-afloat/ [last accessed April 14, 2015]. It should be noted that Lebanon's power grid is routinely damaged during times of war, especially by  Israeli attacks in 1967, 1978, 1981, 1996, 2006.
  • 12. Ziad K. Abdelnour, “The Corruption Behind Lebanon's Electricity Crisis,” Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. 5, No. 8-9, August-September 2003, available at: http://www.meforum.org/meib/articles/0308_l1.htm [last accessed April 15, 2015].
  • 13. Jean Aziz, “Lebanon's continued electricity cuts portend disaster,” Al-Monitor, January 12, 2015, available at: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/01/lebanon-electricity-supply-debt-disaster.html [last accessed on April 20, 2015].
  • 14. For more on the types of hidden costs and other economic loses, refer to Joseph A. Kechichian, “The big electricity scam in Lebanon,” Gulf News, August 15, 2014, available at: http://gulfnews.com/news/mena/lebanon/the-big-electricity-scam-in-lebanon-1.1372491 [last accessed on April 15, 2015].
  • 15. Mohamed Wehbe, “Solidere Burns Bright While Lebanon Goes Dark”, Al-Akhbar English, November 14, 2012, available at: http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/solidere-burns-bright-while-lebanon-goes-dark [last accessed on April 24, 2015].
  • 16. “Zahle generator companies angry over 24 hour plan,” The Daily Star, December 19, 2015, available at: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2014/Dec-19/281616-zahle-generator-companies-angry-over-24-hour-plan.ashx [last accessed March 30, 2015].
  • 17. Interview with Loubnan Makhoul, a daily worker at EDL, and former head of the workers committee formed during the  2012 strike.  He was also one of the main organisers and public faces for the movement in 2012 and until recently. Conducted by the author on April 14, 2015.
  • 18. Ibid.
  • 19. Interview with Farah Kobaissy. Conducted by the author on March 31, 2015.
  • 20. For a more indepth analysis of the important role of labour unions and workers played in the Arab uprising, refer to Gilbert Achcar, “The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising,” University of California Press, September 2013.
  • 21. “Demonstrations and labour Issues in Lebanon in 2012, the first annual report,” Lebanese Observatory for the Rights of Workers and Employees, March 2013, available at: https://daleel-madani.org/sites/default/files/Resources/report-marsad.pdf [last accessed: April 14, 2015].
  • 22. Interview with Markhoul and Daou. Since Taif, and even before, all public institutions must allocate positions according to sectarian framework regardless of the realities on the ground.
  • 23. Interview with the Makhoul, April 14, 2015.
  • 24. Rasha Abouzaki, “Electricite du Liban: Striking Workers Test Their Power,” Al-Akhbar, May 29, 2012, available at: http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/7825 [last accessed on April 24, 2015].
  • 25. Bassem Chit, “Electricity workers in Lebanon strike back against casualisation,” Socialist Worker, July 20, 2012, available at: https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/writers/chit/2012/07/electric.html [last accessed on April 24, 2015].
  • 26. Interview with Walid Daou, school teacher and leading member of the Lebanese leftist Socialist Forum, on March 24, 2015.
  • 27. Interview with Abdallah Castro, head of the Federation of Lebanese Workers Unions (FENASOL), on April 14, 2015.
  • 28. “Demonstrations and labour Issues in Lebanon in 2012, the first annual report,” Lebanese Observatory for the Rights of Workers and Employees, March 2013, available at: https://daleel-madani.org/sites/default/files/Resources/report-marsad.pdf [last accessed on April 24, 2015].
  • 29. Rasha Abouzaki, “EDL Strike Aftermath: Divvying Up the Pie,” Al-Akhbar, September 10, 2012, available at: english.al-akhbar.com/content/edl-strike-aftermath-divvying-pie [last accessed on April 24, 2015].
  • 30. They are: KVA s.a.l., BUTEC Utility Services, and the National Electric Utility Company.
  • 31. Mohammed Nazzal, “Lebanon: Broken Promises Behind Contract Workers' Last Stand,” Al-Akhbar, January 15, 2015, available at: http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/lebanon-broken-promises-behind-contract-workers%E2%80%99-last-stand [last accessed April 24, 2015].
  • 32. “Electricity workers shut down offices across Lebanon,” Al-Akhbar, March 31, 2014, available at: http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/19222 [last accessed April 24, 2015].
  • 33. “Lebanese electricity workers protest limited promotions,” Al-Akhbar, August 11, 2014, available at: http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/21095 [last accessed April 24, 2015].
  • 34. Firas Abou-Mosleh, “Lebanon: What caused the nationwide power blackout?” Al-Akhbar, September 16, 2014, available at: http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/lebanon-what-caused-nationwide-power-blackout [last accessed at, April 24, 2015].
  • 35. “EDL Contract Workers in Iqlim Kharoub Scuffle with ISF,” Naharnet, April 15, 2015, available at: http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/175579 [last accessed at April 24, 2015].
  • 36. Interview with Makhoul, April 14, 2015.
  • 37. It clearly seems like privatisation has not had improvements to distribution or lessened power cuts. At the time of this writing, electricity has been cut for three six-hour periods in the residential neighborhood of Quraytem in western part of the Lebanese capital.
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About the author(s):
Yazan al-Saadi:

Yazan L. al-Saadi is a native of the West Asian region. Based primarily between Kuwait and Lebanon, Yazan has lived, studied and worked in three continents. He is currently a writer for the online Lebanese news-site, Al-Akhbar English, with interests in a number of subjects from pop-culture to politics, sociological issues to economic theories. He occasionally moonlights as a freelance writer and researcher for other publications. Yazan holds a Bachelor’s (Honors) degree in Economics and Development Studies from Queen’s University, Canada and a Masters of Arts in Law, Development, and Globalization from the School of Oriental and African Studies.