Jordanian teachers come out on strike for promised pay raise

Security forces block a road as teachers protest in Amman, Jordan, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. Thousands of Jordanian teachers held a protest demanding higher wages, with some scuffling with security forces. (AP)
Updated 09 September 2019

Jordanian teachers come out on strike for promised pay raise

  • ‘Commitment to the strike was nearly 100 percent’

AMMAN: Nearly all state school teachers in Jordan began a strike on Sunday, insisting that they will not return to teaching until the government’s promise of a 50 percent increase is addressed.

A statement by the powerful teachers’ union that called for the strike said that “commitment to the strike was nearly 100 percent.”

Naser Nawasrah, the union’s vice president, told the press that teachers “will not enter the classrooms until those responsible for transgressions against teachers during Thursday’s protest are held accountable.”

Speaking on Radio Al-Balad at the end of the first day of the strike, Nawasrah complained the government had not responded to the demands of the teachers. 

“We have asked for a long time to have a dialogue but were stonewalled, and then when we protested our teachers were humiliated, beaten and arrested.” 

Nawasrah said that there had been no plans for a strike until September, but the harsh government response pushed them to strike. “The attacks on the teachers and their dignity is what pushed us to this. On Thursday our teachers were attacked and violence was used against them, they were arrested and beaten up and humiliated.”

Jumana Ghunaimat, the government spokesperson, said that the Jordan government “respects teachers and the teaching profession and is open to dialogue with the teachers about their strike.”

Wajih Oweis, a former education minister, told Arab News that it is hard to find an easy solution. “It is true the teachers were verbally promised a 50 percent increase and we tried to work this issue out by turning the across-the-board raise into a raise based on performance.” Oweis said that there is no money currently available for such a raise. “The 2019 budget doesn’t have the 112 million dinars ($158 million) needed. We suggest a five-year plan where the increase is 10 percent each year.”

Responding to Oweis’ suggestion, the acting head of the teacher’s union refused to comment on an offer not made directly by the government. “Until now the government has not provided any numbers. Why should we agree to compromises that have not been offered to us? No government official or minister has contacted us directly with any numbers,” Nawasrah told the radio station on Sunday afternoon. “If they can make money available based on merit, then the excuse that there is no money is rejected,” he concluded.

Media sources have said the government has questioned the legality of the strike and was planning to find legal remedies to stop it.

Ahmad Awad, the founder and director of the Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies, told Arab News that the strike is legal and part of the civil protests aimed at improving the lives of Jordanians. 

“The teachers gave enough time before they went on strike and that is all that is needed, the conditions of teachers is very bad and their demands have been promised since 2014 so it is a legal and logical demand.”

The government is short-sighted in its outlook toward teachers.”

For its part, the Public Security Department (PSD) said in a press conference Saturday that its personnel “practiced restraint” during Thursday’s protests, but they “were driven to the use of force by some protesters who were shoving their way to reach the Fourth Circle (in central Amman).”

Iran’s Hassan Rouhani may skip UN meet over US visa delay

Updated 18 September 2019

Iran’s Hassan Rouhani may skip UN meet over US visa delay

TEHRAN: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and his delegation could be forced into skipping next week’s UN General Assembly because the United States has yet to issue them visas, state media said Wednesday.
Rouhani and his delegation had been scheduled to travel to New York for the annual UN gathering on Monday, but that was now looking unlikely given the lack of visas, state news agency IRNA said.
“If the visas aren’t issued in a few hours, this trip will probably be canceled,” IRNA reported.
The delegation includes Iran’s top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif, who the United States imposed sanctions against on July 31.
The foreign minister had been due to travel to New York on Friday morning, according to IRNA.
The absence of Rouhani would ruin France’s bid to arrange a meeting between him and US President Donald Trump as part of European efforts to de-escalate tensions between the arch-foes.
“Iran’s absence will show that in contrast with its commitments to the United Nations and international organizations within the framework of agreements, diplomacy has no value for the United States,” IRNA said.
“Although the Islamic Republic of Iran has not left the scene and it continues its active diplomacy, the US government must answer for its behavior,” it added.
The UN General Assembly debate is due to begin on Tuesday.
As the host government, the United States generally is obliged to issue visas to diplomats who serve at UN headquarters.
But Iran and the United States have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal and began reimposing sanctions in its campaign of “maximum pressure.”
Iran responded by scaling back its commitments under the landmark accord, which gave it the promise of sanctions relief in return for limiting the scope of its nuclear program.