AMMAN: Jordan’s capital city Amman came to a complete standstill as thousands of teachers from all over the Kingdom descended on the capital demanding the government fulfill its promise of a 50 percent pay raise made during the Abdullah Ensour administration.
Mustafa Rawashdeh, the founding head of the teacher’s union in 2011, told Arab News that the issue of teachers reaches every home in Jordan. “There are over 100,000 members of the teacher’s union and this means that what affects them affects every single Jordanian family.”
Jordanian security forces would not allow the demonstrators to protest near the prime minister’s office and used tear gas to break up the demonstrators that gathered there. The tough policy against the teachers prompted protesters to call for the ouster of Prime Minister Omar Razzaz and the newly appointed hard-line Minister of Interior Salameh Hammad.
Long traffic jams were seen all over the city. Many protesters said that the traffic jams were caused by the police, while the head of police speaking to local radio stations blamed the protesters. The government, which had refused to meet with the teachers, changed its tune on the morning of the protest, calling for an open debate with the teacher’s union.
Rawashdeh told Arab News that the government needs to be serious when dealing with the union. “The union is an independent body and any dialogue with them must be serious and realistic by all sides.”
Naser Nawisa, the deputy head of the teacher’s union, insisted that the protest only took place after all other avenues had been exhausted. “The teacher’s protest today is legal and peaceful and it comes after five years of the government dragging its feet. Our demand is for the government to carry out its promises of a 50 percent pay rise and nothing else.”
Walid Jallad, spokesman for the Ministry of Education, estimates that the cost of the teachers’ demand would reach JOD 112 million ($158 million).
Jumana Ghnimat, the government spokesperson, told Arab News that the government is open to dialogue with the teachers. “We are open and willing to have substantive dialogue with the teachers and efforts continued until Wednesday night to find a solution to avert the protest,” Ghnimat said.
She said the government wants the teacher’s raise to be connected to a professional path and not an across the board raise. “The government had reached an agreement with the previous union and eight of the union members agreed to the idea which would give teachers salary rises based on their professional criteria and performance. They insist on a raise across the board.”
Ghnimat said that the government allowed the protests in the Abdali area across from the parliament but the teachers insisted on going near the Prime Minister’s office. Teachers’ representatives have said that they were protesting against the government and not against the parliament.
The teachers’ protest has brought back memories of the protests of June 2018, when demonstrations against the tax hike brought down the government of Hani Mulqi. Youth activists have added their voice to the protesters using the hashtags “solidarity with teachers” and “we are not going to be quiet.”
Himam, a coalition of Jordanian civil society organizations, criticized the government saying that stopping the teachers from carrying out their protests, inciting against them and their union, and blocking buses from transporting them is a violation of their right to peaceful assembly which is guaranteed by the constitution and by the international human rights conventions approved by Jordan.