Web outages on cards as Lebanon telecom minister says talks still on to end Ogero strike

A walkout by Ogero employees has caused widespread internet shortages

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A days-long strike by employees of Lebanon's state-owned internet provider that has led to service failures throughout the country is expected to continue.

"We agreed that it's going to take a little bit of time to get things sorted out, meaning probably not before middle of next week," caretaker Telecommunications Minister Johnny Corm told The National, after a three-and-a-half-hour meeting with the syndicate representing Ogero's employees.

The employees, who walked off their jobs on Tuesday, are demanding higher salaries amid an economic meltdown that has led the dollar value of wages to collapse.

"I don't think the internet will go out completely, Mr Corm said in a phone interview. "But there will be no contact with customers."

There are reports that the mobile phone networks operated by providers Alfa and MTC Touch have been affected.

"I think that we're safe in a sense that we're not going to be disconnected from the rest of the world," Mr Corm said. "And hopefully businesses will not suffer as a consequence during this negotiation period. But I'm very hopeful that it should all be settled."

Internet outages are expected to affect more parts of the country as Ogero's private electricity generators run out of fuel.

Ogero Chairman Imad Kreidieh told The National this week that the internet blackouts would not have been as widespread if there had been more state electricity on the grid.

State utility Electicite Du Liban provides only a couple of hours of power a day, if that.

Ogero in recent years has faced problems maintaining its infrastructure and being able to afford fuel for its generators.

Lebanon is in the middle of an economic collapse, which first became apparent in 2019, that has been described by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern history. Much of the population has been plunged into poverty, the local currency has lost more than 90 per cent of its value and there are widespread shortages of basic essentials.

Inflation is rampant and public sector employees — such as those at Ogero — have not had their salaries adjusted to reflect the new reality.

Many public sector workers have been on strike for nearly two months as they seek better employment conditions.

Updated: September 02, 2022, 11:30 AM
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