Teachers in Lebanon joined a strike across the public sector yesterday, fighting for decent pay. The UCC union federation which is co-ordinating the strike, is demanding that the government pass a public sector pay rise.

This is just the latest stage in a long battle for decent pay across the public and private school sector in Lebanon. There have been numerous strikes over the last three years, but none during the present academic year. As the leader of the private school teachers put it: 'When we used to strike, they used to tell us: You are wreaking havoc everywhere. We did not go on strike this year, yet they have not granted us our rights.' Concluding that remaining positive and peaceful as the government had urged them to do got them nowhere, the teachers struck yesterday and are threatening to strike again on April 23rd and scupper the end of the academic year in the country.

As we reported this time last year, the government had promised a pay increase but has reneged on that, partly through the intervention of business leaders who say the coutry cannot afford to give the teachers a pay rise. The International Monetary Fund has also intervened to demand that the government use its profits from hydrocarbons to pay down the country's debt. Many politicians accept that the pay rise is necessary but some have suggested that it be funded through a rise in VAT which would have the biggest impact on the poor. Teachers completely reject this, saying that instead the government should put a stop to corruption and should tax the many very wealthy people in the country.

The anger of teachers and others is increased by the life-styles of the many super-rich who live in Lebanon in luxurious beach-side apartments, while teachers and others cannot afford to raise families on their salaries. Moreover, union leaders believe money is squandered through corruption and a failure to tax the rich adequately.

Lebanese teachers are also affected by the scourge of temporary contracts - many have been working for ten years, yet still have no contract and therefore no employment or pension rights.