Despite Deep Crisis - Unions in Lebanon make a Difference

Interview made by Union to Union with Najwa Hanna, PSI Sub-regional Secretary for Arab Countries, based in Beirut, Lebanon

Economic crisis, political instability and rising unemployment. The challenges in Lebanon are many, and the importance of trade union action is becoming increasingly clear.

- One problem follows another. It's naturally stressful. But we are finding solutions," says Najwa Hanna, who works at the PSI Global Union Federation's office in Beirut, Lebanon.

The Lebanese currency has lost 93% of its value in the past two years

The situation in Lebanon has been chaotic for years. Political turmoil led to an economic crisis with soaring inflation; the Lebanese currency has lost 93% of its value in the past two years.

In 2020, the covid-19 pandemic spread. In the autumn of 2020, a major explosion occurred in the port of Beirut, destroying several hospitals and medical warehouses.

- There are hardly words to describe the situation in Lebanon today. There are long queues for petrol stations, skyrocketing unemployment, a privatised healthcare apparatus where healthcare is not accessible to all. And we only have access to electricity for about two hours every day," says Najwa Hanna.

Action during the crisis

In the midst of all this, trade unions are working for the interests of all workers - not just their own members. And despite the challenges, many unions have made important contributions.

Najwa Hanna says the most basic is trying to ensure members' basic needs, such as food, medicine and fuel. One way of doing this is to set up a solidarity fund.

Public transport important for many

Trade unions are pushing for the government to invest in and expand public transport, as many people, especially those on low incomes, have no other means of getting to their jobs. This pressure has resulted in the government making the issue a priority.

- Unemployment has risen enormously," says Najwa Hanna. From around 28% in 2019 to around 55% now.

- It is clear that the work of the unions is making a difference, but this is something that will continue for a long time, concludes Najwa Hanna.

Swedish trade unions in Lebanon

The Swedish Trade Union Confederation runs several development projects in Lebanon. IF Metall, Unionen and Papers, together with local unions and the global union IndustriALL, are running a project on young union leaders.

Vårdförbundet, F Gewerkförbundet ST, Akademikerförbundet SSR and Vision are running a project on migrant workers and human rights together with local unions and the global union PSI.

Just before the pandemic hit, Union to Union visited Lebanon and wrote a report on the gender equality work.

Translated with

Read the original in Swedish here:

Trots djup kris – facken i Libanon gör skillnad

Situationen i Libanon har varit kaotisk i flera år. Politisk turbulens ledde till en ekonomisk kris med rusande inflation; den libanesiska valutan har tappat 93 procent i värde under de senaste två åren. 2020 spred sig covid-19-pandemin.