BEIRUT – A Lebanese bank employees’ union urged on Monday its members to go on strike, adding to the woes the country’s financial sector has suffered in 25 days of nationwide protests.
The union said in a statement on Facebook the decision to start a strike on Tuesday until calm returns to resume normal operations was taken in an emergency meeting over safety reasons.
“The bank sector witnessed last week instability that led to unacceptable working conditions,” it said.
“Workers were sworn at and even attacked by depositors … in addition to chaos in a number of bank branches.”
Banks shut their doors when the protests broke out on October 17 and reopened after a two-week closure.
Restrictions were imposed on people withdrawing United States dollars from foreign currency accounts last month as a result of the mass rallies.
People in Lebanon widely use US dollars in day-to-day dealings.
Garabed Khachadour, a 25-year-old student, told EFE: “I needed to withdraw $1,000 a few days ago from my account at Byblos Bank, but they rejected my order.
“Then I tried a smaller amount ($500) but was also declined. I could only withdraw $200 from the ATM.”
Another student, Lamis Amhaz, said: “I usually get paid in dollars from my online editing work and OMT (money transfer service).
“This time OMT refused to give me the cash in dollars and, instead, I picked it up in Lebanese pounds.”
Lebanon’s central bank governor Riad Salameh promised on Monday to protect depositors and deposits.
“We have informed banks that they can borrow from the Central Bank in dollars,” he added.
“However, these funds are not to be transferred abroad but are solely meant for Lebanese local use,” he said in a televised speech.
Protests across Lebanon started in response to the government’s plan to impose taxes on messaging apps such as WhatsApp.
Demonstrators quickly turned to a broader denunciation of pervasive corruption and the ruling class in a nation with one of the world’s highest levels of economic inequality.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation, bowing to one of the key demands laid down by the protesters.
President Michel Aoun has not yet started consultations to appoint a new leader.
Activists have been calling for a government of technocrats as political posts in Lebanon are allocated by religion.