Pay deal ends strike by UN Palestinian agency workers in Jordan

Classes were ccanceled for about 1,200 students. (Reuters/Muhammad Hamed)
Updated 03 November 2019

Pay deal ends strike by UN Palestinian agency workers in Jordan

  • Thousands of staff have begun an open-ended strike
  • Workers are demanding raises of about $140 a month

AMMAN: An agreement was reached to end a strike in Jordan by employees of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, hours after the walkout began Sunday, Amman's top diplomat and a trade union leader said.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi announced the deal with UNRWA employees, involving salary rises of between 70 and 100 Jordanian dinars (88 to 126 euros) per month from January, at a late afternoon news conference with union representatives.
"Consequently, it has been decided to put an end to the strike," said Riyadh Zyghan, leader of the UNRWA employees' union in Jordan.
More than two million Palestinians are registered in Jordan as refugees with UNRWA, which provides everything from healthcare to schooling.
Around 7,000 workers had joined the strike, forcing a shutdown of agency facilities, according to UNRWA spokesman in Jordan Sami Mshamsha.
Mshamsha said the union demanded a salary increase of 200 Jordanian dinars, but agreed to ask for half that amount following negotiations with UNRWA.
The union of UNRWA workers had said the action would be "open-ended" and had told pupils and students they should stay at home.
The strike came as the agency faces an unprecedented financial crisis.
In 2018, the United States suspended and later cut all its funding for UNRWA, causing a shortfall that threatened to close its schools and hospitals.
Those woes were compounded by allegations of abuse by the agency's management, leading other key donors -- the Netherlands and Switzerland -- to snap shut their purses.
In June UNRWA commissioner general Pierre Krahenbuhl told a news conference in Amman that the agency faced an expected $211 million shortfall in funding for 2019, and called on donors to fill the gap.
The agency runs 169 schools in the kingdom, serving some 120,000 students, as well as a faculty of science and educational arts, 25 primary healthcare centres and other services.
UNRWA was set up in 1949 after more than 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled during the war surrounding Israel's creation the previous year.
It provides vital schooling and medical services to some five million Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, including annexed east Jerusalem.

Egypt army drill ‘sends a message to Erdogan’

Updated 29 min 11 sec ago

Egypt army drill ‘sends a message to Erdogan’

  • Military exercise near Libyan border a ‘warning shot,’ experts say

CAIRO: A major Egyptian army exercise near the border with Libya is being viewed by military and strategic experts as a message of deterrence to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his backing for the Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj and supported by militia groups.

The combat exercise, codenamed “Hasm 2020” (Firmness 2020), was carried out by Egypt’s Western Region units together with armed forces formations and special troops, including paratroops and SEAL teams.

The drills included strategic incursions by land forces and land-sea operations by troops in coastal areas of the Western Region near the border with Libya. Other exercises focused on the threat from mercenary or terror groups.

Air defense and artillery maneuvers were also carried out during the exercises, which lasted several days. 

African affairs and national security expert Gen. Mohammed Abdel-Wahed said the Hasm 2020 exercise “carries many internal and external messages of assurance to our brothers in Libya and deterrence to some regional parties.”

The drill “was a message of deterrence to anyone who thinks he can threaten Egyptian national security” and “a simulation of war,” he added.

According to an army statement, the drill’s main phase was attended by Egyptian Minister of Defense Mohamed Zaki, and included live artillery and weapons fire.

Strategic expert Gen. Samir Farag said: “What happened was not an ordinary drill because the forces attacked mercenaries. Our army always fights a regular army. What is different about this drill is training to combat mercenaries. One of the training tasks is to carry out attacks to eliminate mercenaries in cooperation with the air force.”

Farag said the drill “is a message that we will operate on the coasts if they are under threat.”

He said the Egyptian air force succeeded in providing air supplies, “meaning that we have forces capable of going anywhere.”

Farag said that the Western Region had been carefully selected as a location for the exercises.

“We closely monitor any drill carried out by any of our enemies,” he said, adding that Hasm 2020 had been studied and followed up by some countries in the region. 

Egyptian MP and journalist Mustafa Bakry said that “every Egyptian should be proud of their armed forces and their extensive preparation to counter any attack on Egypt or threaten its national security.”

Bakry said that Hasm 2020 sent “a clear message to anyone who attempts to threaten Egypt or its people.”

The Libyan cities of Sirte and Al-Jufra are a red line, he said, adding that “Egypt will never leave Libya and its brotherly people as an easy prey to the Turkish invader.”