You are here

Conflict Incident Report

NSSF employees take to streets to protest state budget

Date of incident: 
April 25, 2017
Death toll: 
Number of Injured: 
Actors/Parties Involved: 
Lebanese Civilians

National Social Security Fund employees staged a protest in Beirut against Lebanon's draft state budget over two articles that they say could destroy the state’s insurance and pension fund.

"We want them to abolish the two articles included in the state budget," said Hasan Houmani, head of the National Union for the Syndicate of Workers and Employees at the NSSF.

The protest in Beirut's Riad al-Solh area, which was organized by the General Labor Confederation, coincided with a meeting of Parliament's Finance and Budget Committee.

Head of the committee MP Ibrahim Kanaan asked the protesters to refer their concerns to the committee for discussion.

The lawmaker said after the meeting that a new session was scheduled to continue deliberations on the 2017 state budget draft that the Cabinet had referred to Parliament.

"We are concerned with knowing the goals of the budget and [what] it will achieve," he said.

Kanaan said that the rights of citizens subscribed with NSSF will "be guaranteed."

"We will not ignore the rights of our people. They have paid enough, and we will not allow to add more burden on their shoulders."

Protesters lifted large banners that read: "NSSF is a Red Line" and "Lift Your Hands off NSSF."

NSSF employees reject articles 68 and 54 of the state budget, which would exempt the government employees and business owners of their dues to the NSSF.

Protesters argued that the two articles would destabilize the finances of the institution, and would encourage employers to stop paying into the NSSF.

They warned of attempts to ease requirements for employers and government departments to pay into the NSSF, which are the only means to fund the institution.

A brief verbal spat erupted between two protesters over whether to block the road to prevent commuters from passing by in the area or leaving it open for drivers.

"We want to raise [our voices]. This shall not pass. Stop manipulating the people," Houmani said, warning that if the two articles were approved, then 80 percent of the subscriptions with the NSSF would drop.

The NSSF provides medical insurance and pensions to Lebanese employees paid through lifetime contributions.

Employers are currently required to register their employees in the NSSF and must contribute to the fund for the workers.

Head of the Union of Private School Teachers Nehme Mahfoud, who joined the protest, said that lawmakers were "seeking to clamp down on the money of the people."

"This is not acceptable ... Stop delaying and neglecting [our needs] ... we will not back down ... it's like a snow ball that will keep on getting bigger," he said.

The head of the confederation, Bechara Asmar, said that the two articles "will not pass."

"Escalation could include a several-day general strike," he said.

He thanked Speaker Nabih Berri, who said he supported the protesters' demands.

"I call on lawmakers and minister to take bold and adequate stances," Asmar quoted Berri as saying.

Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil said in a post on Twitter following the protests that he will revise Article 53 of the state budget.

"I stressed the importance of the issue of the NSSF at the finance committee meeting today," he added in another tweet.

Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani had warned earlier this month that the future of the NSSF’s health care cover could be in jeopardy if it remains unable to cover its expenses.

Last month, the Cabinet agreed on a state budget after 14 heated meetings between lawmakers. Prior to that, the government had not ratified a state budget in 12 years, due to political disputes.

This led to extra-budgetary spending of billions of dollars. The country’s battered economy now faces over $74 billion in public debt.

Primary category: 
Collective Action [inc. protests, solidarity movements...]
Classification of conflict (primary): 
Policy conflicts
Conflicts associated with political decisions, government or state policies regarding matters of public concern, such as debates concerning law reforms, electoral laws, and protests of the government’s political decisions, among others.