Jordan’s striking teachers reject government call to return to work

Jordanian teachers chant slogans and wave the national flag during a protest in the capital, Amman. (File/Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)
Updated 01 October 2019

Jordan’s striking teachers reject government call to return to work

  • Only a quarter of Jordan’s 4,000 public schools opened on Tuesday
  • Scuffles broke out in several schools between parents and striking teachers

AMMAN: Tens of thousands of Jordanian teachers on Tuesday defied a government call to end their four-week nationwide strike over pay, in a deepening crisis that threatens to further strain the heavily indebted country’s state finances.
The powerful Jordanian Teachers’ Syndicate on Saturday rejected as “bread crumbs” modest pay increases offered by Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz in a bid to end the strike, which is already the longest by state employees in decades.
The strike comes as Jordan struggles to implement tough IMF-backed fiscal reforms.
Only a quarter of Jordan’s 4,000 public schools opened on Tuesday and a fraction of its 1.5 million or so students turned up for lessons, in what economists said was a blow to the Razzaz government, which came to power in 2018 after street protests over IMF-backed austerity measures.
Scuffles broke out in several schools between parents and striking teachers, according to two witnesses, and state media reported that many teachers had prevented pupils from entering classrooms, asking them instead to go home.
Many parents are not sending their children to school out of solidarity with the striking teachers.
The teachers’ union, which has 100,000 members, is demanding a 50% pay hike. Razzaz says pay increases that took effect this month averaging $35 per month were the most Jordan could afford.
His government has said teachers could lose their jobs over what it describes as an illegal action.
The teachers, whose average salary is around 450 dinars ($630) per month, say they have fallen behind others in a bloated public sector plagued by corruption and mismanagement.
Salaries eat up much of the $13 billion state budget in a country which has one of the world’s highest levels of government spending relative to the size of its economy.
The government fears that new pay demands by other public sector employees, including doctors, and pension increases for retired soldiers would wreck efforts to restore fiscal prudence as a basis for a sustained economic recovery.
The fiscal plan agreed with the International Monetary Fund aims to cut Jordan’s public debt of $40 billion, equivalent to 95 percent of GDP.


Israeli PM: Palestinians in Jordan Valley won’t be citizens

Updated 18 min 18 sec ago

Israeli PM: Palestinians in Jordan Valley won’t be citizens

  • Netanyahu has vowed to press ahead with plans to annex the Jordan Valley

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley will remain in what he described as an “enclave” after Israel annexes the territory and will not be granted Israeli citizenship.
Netanyahu has vowed to press ahead with plans to annex the Jordan Valley and Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, in line with President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, a process that could begin as early as July 1.
The annexation of the Jordan Valley and the far-flung settlements would make it virtually impossible to create a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel, which is still widely seen as the only way to resolve the decades-old conflict.
In an interview with the Israel Hayom newspaper, Netanyahu said Palestinians in the Jordan Valley, including residents of the city of Jericho, would remain under limited Palestinian self-rule, with Israel having overall security control.
“They will remain a Palestinian enclave,” he said. “You’re not annexing Jericho. There’s a cluster or two. You don’t need to apply sovereignty over them. They will remain Palestinian subjects, if you will. But security control also applies to these places.”
Palestinians in the West Bank have lived under Israeli military rule since the 1967 war, when Israel captured the territory, along with east Jerusalem and Gaza. The Palestinians want all three territories to form their future state.
The Trump plan would grant the Palestinians limited statehood over scattered enclaves surrounded by Israel if they meet a long list of conditions. Israel has embraced the plan, while the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank, has angrily rejected it and cut ties with the US and Israel.
Netanyahu said that if the Palestinians accept all the conditions in the plan, including Israel maintaining overall security control, “then they will have an entity of their own that President Trump defines as a state.”
Under a coalition agreement reached last month, Netanyahu can bring his annexation plans before the government as early as July 1.
The Palestinian Authority has said it is no longer bound by any agreements signed with Israel and the US, and says it has cut off security coordination with Israel. Neighboring Jordan, a close Western ally and one of only two Arab states to have made peace with Israel, has warned of a “massive conflict” if Israel proceeds with annexation.