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).”

Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

Updated 21 January 2020

Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

  • Expert says sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in Libyan conflict unlikely

JEDDAH: With the conclusion of the Libya peace summit in Berlin on Sunday, it remains to be seen whether Turkey is willing to implement the provisions of the final communique and stay out of the conflict.

Ankara is accused of sending Syrian fighters to the Libyan battlefront in support of Fayez Al-Sarraj’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) against military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

During the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron voiced concerns over the arrival of Syrian and other foreign fighters in Tripoli, saying: “That must end.” 

Samuel Ramani, a geopolitical analyst at Oxford University, speculates that Turkey will not deploy more troops.  

But he told Arab News that a sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in the Libyan conflict is unlikely for the moment as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will remain present “until the GNA’s future is secured.”

Noting the difficulty of enforcing the Berlin agreement, Ramani said Turkey might not be the first mover in breaching a cease-fire in Libya.

But he added that Turkey will not hesitate to deploy forces and upend the agreement if Haftar makes any moves that it considers “provocative.”

The summit called for sanctions on those who violate the UN Security Council arms embargo on Libya.

Turkish opposition MPs recently criticized the expanded security pact between Ankara and the GNA, saying the dispatch of materials and equipment to Libya breaches the UN arms embargo.

Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.

Micha’el Tanchum, Analyst

The summit does not seem to have resolved ongoing disputes regarding the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline, a planned natural gas pipeline connecting eastern Mediterranean energy resources to mainland Greece via Cyprus and Crete.

The Cypriot presidency accused Turkey of being a “pirate state,” citing Ankara’s recent drilling off its coasts just a day after Brussels warned Turkey that its plans were illegal.

Erdogan dismissed the warning and threatened to send to the EU some 4 million refugees that Turkey is hosting.

Turkey dispatched its Yavuz drillship to the south of Cyprus on Sunday, based on claims deriving from the maritime delimitation agreement with the GNA.

Turkey’s insistence on gas exploration in the region may be subject to sanctions as early as this week, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Monday.

Aydin Sezer, an Ankara-based political analyst, drew attention to Article 25 of the Berlin final communique, which underlined the “Libyan Political Agreement as a viable framework for the political solution in Libya,” and called for the “establishment of a functioning presidency council and the formation of a single, unified, inclusive and effective Libyan government approved by the House of Representatives.”

Sezer told Arab News: “Getting approval from Libya’s Haftar-allied House of Representatives would be a serious challenge for Ankara because Haftar recently considered all agreements with Turkey as a betrayal. This peace conference once more showed that Turkey should keep away from Libya.”

Many experts remain skeptical about the possible outcome of the summit. 

Micha’el Tanchum, a senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, said: “Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.”