AMMAN: The Jordanian government and the public teachers’ union have plunged the country into one of the most serious labor disputes in its history, as a court ordered a temporary cessation of a three-week labor strike on Sunday.
The teachers’ union has submitted a rebuttal to the order but at the same time called on its members to continue with their open strike that began Sept. 8.
Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said the government had to take unilateral steps due to the intransigence of the teachers.
He said the government officials met the teachers’ union 10 times and made several offers but they did not came up with any offer to get the issue resolved.
Razzaz also said the Human Rights Council is investigating many issues, an indirect reference to the teachers’ demand for an apology and a probe into the Sept. 7 events.
On Saturday, Razzaz had revealed a plan to make a small improvement in the salaries of teachers, to the tune of 26 million dinars ($36.67 million), which he said the government would need to borrow to fulfill.
The increase falls short of the 50 percent increase the teachers had demanded, and came without an apology for, or investigation into, police action against teachers on Sept. 7.
• A court ordered a temporary cessation of a three-week labor strike on Sunday.
• The teachers’ union has submitted a rebuttal to the order and asked members to continue with the strike.
• Jordanian prime minister revealed a plan to make small improvement in the salaries of teachers on Saturday.
Naser Nawasreh, the deputy head of the union, responded by giving a Facebook live statement insisting on continuing the open strike but saying that the teachers would make up for lost days at school. “We will make up to our students what they lost and we will contribute back to the government the crumbs that they offered us,” he said.
According to Nawasreh, the offer made by the Jordanian prime minister does not exceed a 10 percent increase. The 50 percent pay rise, he claims, was verbally agreed to by the government of Abdullah Ensour four years ago. Government spokeswoman Jumana Ghneimat had stated earlier that if the government acceded to the teacher’s demands, many other public sector employees would also demand pay rises.
“Unfortunately, Razzaz has turned his back on dialogue and has decided to take a unilateral decision,” Nawasreh said.
Laith Nasrani, a constitutional lawyer, said that the unprecedented court decision should be obeyed. “If the teachers refuse to abide by the decision, this is a crime and can lead to arrests.”
Wajih Oweis, a former minister of education, told Arab News that the government’s attempt to break up the strike would not work. “This will only make things worse. Teachers might return to their classrooms but might not teach. We need a solution agreed to by both sides.”
Thouqan Obediat, a well-respected Jordanian educator, told a radio station on Sunday: “The big loser if disappointed teachers return will be the education system, because they will not be happy teachers but disgruntled ones.”
Ahmad Awad, managing director of the Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies, told Arab News that the government was making a mistake in the way it is handling the teachers strike. “Teachers in Jordan are considered poor, and they are in bad need of an improvement in the payment they receive,” he said. “I don’t believe that ending the strike by a court order will do much to change the reality of the teachers whose salaries are in need of a boost.
“The strike is a reflection of a major social problem in Jordan, and you can’t solve this problem by going to court and putting the heads of the teacher’s union behind bars.”
The news comes as it was announced that military officers who retired from duty before 2010 would receive a raise in their payments, beginning Oct. 1.