Migrant workers in Lebanon reach agreement with waste management company

Approximately 400 migrant workers were on strike for weeks after management of the Lebanese waste management company, RAMCO, started cutting their wages and paying them in Lebanese pounds instead of the contractually obligated US dollar

May 21, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
RAMCO Lebanon migrant workers Migrant workers emptying RAMCO garbage containers in Beirut, Lebanon (Photo: MEE)

Close to 400 foreign migrant workers – most of them from Bangladesh and India – working with Lebanese waste management company RAMCO have temporarily called off their weeks-long strike following an agreement with the company management. Additionally, workers’ were able to win a slight salary increase, according to reports by Middle East Eye.

Migrant workers told Middle East Eye that RAMCO began cutting their wages more than a month ago. The company also started paying the workers in the heavily devalued and stressed local Lebanese currency instead of the US dollar which was otherwise used to pay their salaries. RAMCO’s director, Walid Abou Saad, put the blame on the Lebanese government, which he said is the company’s biggest customer. Saad claimed that RAMCO was forced to use local currency to pay workers’ wages after the government started paying the company in Lebanese pounds instead of US dollars.

To raise their grievances, the workers also staged protests last week outside the company’s storage unit in Beirut. They reportedly stopped waste collection trucks from leaving the premises. To suppress the protests, the management called in personnel from the country’s armored riot police. Videos posted on social media show the riot police brutally beating the foreign workers with baton sticks, as well as using tear gas to break up the protests.

On May 12, the workers had issued a joint statement, accusing RAMCO of human rights violations, after news of physical assaults by the company’s security officials on a mentally ill migrant worker came to light. Legal aid groups and human rights activists and organizations have repeatedly highlighted the plight of foreign migrant workers in the country, not just at the hands of the government, big corporations and small businesses, but also in domestic settings like households, where thousands are employed as maids, cooks, domestic workers. 

Information International Research Centre in Lebanon and other migrant rights organizations have pointed out that over 400,000 foreign migrant workers in Lebanon face several forms of exploitation and maltreatment, including low and unlivable wages, socio-economic marginalization as well as physical and mental abuse.