By Seraj Essul and Aimen Eljali.
Tripoli, 6 September, 2013:
Top-up cards for Libyana, . . .[restrict]one of the state-owned mobile phone networks, are the latest essential to be in short supply across the country, following industrial action that began last week.
The strikes have apparently stopped new batches of top-up phone-cards being distributed. Some shopkeepers in Tripoli have been taking advantage of the dwindling supplies by demanding LD 8 for cards which normally retail at LD 5.
Stocks of both LD 5 and LD 10 top-up cards are reportedly running particularly low in Benghazi, where shopkeepers say they are down to the last batches.
Libyana staff across the country have been on strike, demanding that Chinese telecoms firms ZTE and Huawai be given contracts to install infrastructure for 3G and 4G technologies. One protestor told the Libya Herald that the Ministry of Communications was considering awarding the deals to different companies but this, he said, would cost LD 130 million more.
“The difference is actually LD 31 million,” Ministry of Communications Undersecretary, Mohammed Bilras Ali, told the Libya Herald. He said that a better network would cost more money, adding: “Libya is worth it.”
Ali said the two Chinese firms had provided 73 percent of the equipment currently being used and that not all of this had been of good quality. The ministry wanted to ensure that no firms had a monopoly, he said, explaining: “We don’t want any company to have more than 20-30 percent and have that much control.”
Ali said that Libyana employees were also demanding that ten percent of the company’s profits be divided amongst the workforce. “They are not going to get ten percent,” Ali said, “you can’t get a salary, rewards and profits.”
The strikers nevertheless are adamant that they will continue their industrial action until their demands are met. They have threatened to stop Libyana mobile phone services altogether. However, Ali said that this was unlikely, as it would provoke an angry response from the public. [/restrict]