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).”

Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

Updated 24 min 47 sec ago

Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

  • A video emerged on social media showing actress Nadine Al-Rassi preparing to set fire to a car tire in downtown Beirut
  • In a series of tweets, Lebanese recording artist Elissa, who is abroad, supported the protesters’ demands

BEIRUT: Lebanese celebrities joined thousands of protesters on the streets of Beirut on Saturday to voice their anger at the country’s ruling elite.
Singers, actors and playwrights were among a host of high-profile artists who backed demands for action over government corruption and to counter Lebanon’s spiralling economic crisis.
Beirut has been shrouded in smoke for three days following widespread protests and rioting over government tax plans.
A video emerged on social media showing actress Nadine Al-Rassi preparing to set fire to a car tire in downtown Beirut and crying inconsolably about her financial state.
The actress, wearing jeans and her face blackened, told protesters: “I am Nadine Al-Rassi. I was hungry for seven days. I have debts. Banque du Liban (Lebanon’s central bank) seized my house and I am unable to rent a home. Corrupt people should be held responsible.”

In a series of tweets, Lebanese recording artist Elissa, who is abroad, supported the protesters’ demands, saying: “This is the first time I wish I were in Lebanon. My heart is with you.”
In another tweet, the high-profile singer, one of the Middle East’s best-selling performers, said: “I proudly follow the news of Beirut and its citizens ... who are demanding a decent life. It is time for people to get back their dignity.”
Meanwhile, singer and composer Ragheb Alama expressed his dismay at a Council of Ministers plan to impose a daily fee on WhatsApp calls.
“The people’s misfortunes are not funny. Why don’t you tax the polluted air people breathe? It is a great idea that brings money to your fathers’ treasury, too,” he wrote.
Alama accused the Parliament of responsibility for the country’s dire economy: “Why do deputies receive money, privileges and overheads, and what have they done? They covered up for looting and stealing for decades. They are responsible for destroying the economy and the country.”
Nancy Ajram, one of the Arab world’s most popular singers, wrote on Twitter: “My heart goes out to my country every moment and with every heartbeat. We are a people who deserves to live and it is our right to live with dignity. May God protect Lebanon.”
Singer and actress Haifa Wehbe tweeted: “There is nothing better than the Lebanese people when they stand in unity and under one slogan, without any political affiliation. We are all for our country.”
Comedian and prime-time TV host Hisham Haddad was among celebrities who joined protesters at Riad El-Solh Square, near the Prime Minister’s office, site of the biggest centralized demonstrations.
Actress Maguy Bou Ghosn, singer Moeen Shreif, actors Abdo Chahine, Badih Abou Chakra and Junaid Zeineldine, playwright Ziad Itani and musician Ziyad Sahhab also joined the protests.
Actor Wissam Hanna called on Twitter for protesters to close the Beirut Airport road to stop corrupt officials fleeing the country.
“I am all for closing down the airport road to stop thieves from fleeing. I am all for recovering stolen funds. Lebanon rises, revolts and it is time to hold them accountable,” he wrote.
Actress Gretta Aoun said: “We have to take to the streets. They must know the extent of our pain.”