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French Version

Sukleen gets back to business as usual

Sukleen, the private company contracted by the Lebanese government to clean the streets of Beirut and Mount Lebanon, is back in business after massive Israeli air strikes forced hundreds of its Syrian and Indian workers to flee the country. This time it's the Lebanese who are wearing the traditional green and blue uniforms of the company, collecting the garbage from the streets and alleys.

Tons of garbage and trash littered the streets of Beirut and other areas in Lebanon in the first two weeks of the Israeli attack, causing fear among citizens of impending disease.

To cope with this unforeseen problem, the company urged Lebanese to fill the positions of the foreign workers, offering them full packages.

Although Sukleen has not replaced the entire 2,000 foreign workers yet, the company's chairman and general manager is upbeat about the prospects of filling the remaining gaps.

"It's changing by the hour. Every day we are getting new people to work in our company," Walid Chaar told The Daily Star.

Chaar refused to give the exact number of Lebanese workers now with Sukleen but expressed confidence the 2,000 positions will be filled soon.

He added that Syrian workers were paid by the hour but the situation is different for Lebanese employees.

"We are offering workers full wages plus all the benefits such as accommodation, food and above all Social Security coverage," Chaar said.

Sukleen charges $20 for the collection of each ton of waste.

Under the terms of a contract signed in 1994, the government pays Sukkar Engineering Group, the parent company of Sukleen and Sukomi, some $66.2 million each year for the collection of garbage, street-sweeping and treatment of domestic waste and landfills.

Sukleen's contract expired in 2000 but the government renews the contact every year. The contract with Sukleen does not cover the North and the South of the country, where municipality workers collect and sweep garbage from the streets.

"We are serving nearly 2 million people in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, or nearly half of Lebanon's population," said Chaar.

Chaar added that due to security conditions in the first days of the Israeli attacks, the road to Choueifat was cut off. He said that once the roads were open Sukleen resumed full operation, but "we have to find longer routes to avoid the streets targeted by the Israeli warplanes."

Chaar said Sukleen has stopped serving a part of the southern suburbs, devastated by the constant Israeli air strikes.

"The only area which we are not serving in the southern suburbs is Haret Hreik," he said.

Chaar said the company has also resumed recycling solid waste at its premises, adding that all the engineers and technical staff are still working normally.

He refused to say if the Syrian workers who fled the country will find their jobs once the fighting ends.

"The Syrian workers will return to Lebanon," he said, "but whether they will find their jobs is another story."

He added that the major challenge the company faced was convincing Lebanese to replace the foreign workers.

Beirut 29-07-2006
Osama Habib
The Daily Star

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