Waste crisis looms in Lebanon as government fails to address Ramco worker protests

LondonThe Lebanese government is responsible for assuring fair pay for foreign workers at Ramco, a major waste-management company that serves Mount Lebanon and some areas of Beirut, says ImpACT International for Human Rights Policies, adding action is needed immediately to prevent suspension of garbage collection.

Ramco workers, who are predominantly Bangladeshi and Indian, have been protesting for two weeks to demand that they be paid in U.S. dollars or receive a premium, since the value of the Lebanese pound has plummeted. Although the listed exchange rate is 1,515 Lebanese pounds to the dollar, in actuality it has soared to 4,200, due to the country’s economic crisis.

Despite their protests, Ramco have not yet stopped working, even in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. However, that could change.

Despite their protests, Ramco have not yet stopped working, even in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. However, that could change.

When about a hundred workers protested in the company’s headquarters, Ramco security forces came in to disperse them. Workers complained in a statement that the company is violating their rights, both to fair compensation and healthy conditions. In addition, the statement said that the security forces tried to kill one of the Bangladeshi workers named Enaya Allah. On 8 April, Allah demonstrated symptoms of a mental illness, but Ramco officials failed to offer him any treatment; instead, they locked him in a dark, underground room for three days, where he was psychologically and physically tortured.

"He completely lost his mental balance. Then, the security guards took him to the canteen, where they grabbed by his chest and tried to strangle him," the statement read.

The workers also report that 10 to 15 people each month are either not paid at all or receive only partial compensation; when they complain to the supervisor, they are ignored, or he becomes angry.

Ramco officials respond by saying have not been paid by the government for the company’s services since November 2019, leading to significant losses.

ImpACT reviewed a formal request submitted in early April by Ramco to Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, demanding payment for its solid waste management services and warning that it will have to stop collection if it does not receive compensation.

Both Ramco and the government of Lebanon are at fault, concluded ImpACT. Ramco should adhere to ethical principles for collective bargaining and comply with labor legislation. Meanwhile, the Lebanese government must act promptly to pay Ramco for its services and prevent the severe repercussions that will otherwise result, both for the company's workers and for the hygiene of the nation’s citizens at a time when a pandemic is raging.

 

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