November 11, 2019 / 6:22 PM / 25 days ago

Lebanon banks discuss staff strike call, say they will protect employees

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s banks held an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss a strike call by a union worried about staff security, the country’s banking association said, pledging to protect employees after physical attacks on them.

FILE PHOTO: Lebanese police stand outside the entrance of the Association of Banks in downtown Beirut, Lebanon November 1, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo

A statement issued by the Association of Banks in Lebanon however did not say whether banks would close on Tuesday, after some Lebanese broadcasters reported the banks would shut their doors because of the planned stoppage.

The president of the Federation of Syndicates of Banks Employees earlier called on bank staff to go on strike from Tuesday because of safety concerns, following weeks of mass anti-government protests fuelled by economic grievances.

The association statement said banks had held an emergency meeting to discuss the federations call.

It added: “The Association of Banks in Lebanon thanks all of the sector’s employees for their dedication in the past two weeks during tough conditions and under pressure.”

“At the same time, the association denounces what some bank employees were subjected to by way of abuse that extended to physical attacks.”

Taking aim at rampant state corruption, the nationwide protests have targeted the entire ruling elite.

Since reopening on Nov. 1 after a two-week closure, banks have been seeking to stave off capital flight by blocking most transfers abroad and imposing curbs on hard-currency withdrawals, though the central bank has announced no formal capital controls.

The banks’ moves have led to threats against their staff.

George al Hajj, president of the Federation of Syndicates of Banks Employees, has said clients with guns had entered some banks and security guards have been afraid to speak to them.

Reporting by Ellen Francis and Reuters TV, Editing by William Maclean

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