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.


Rouhani: Iran will bypass US sanctions or overcome them through talks

Updated 26 min 31 sec ago

Rouhani: Iran will bypass US sanctions or overcome them through talks

  • Tensions have soared between Tehran and Washington since last year
  • The Islamic Republic has rejected negotiating a new deal with the Trump administration

DUBAI: Iran will overcome US sanctions by either bypassing them or through negotiations, and it will not cross its red lines in any talks with arch-adversary Washington, President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday.
Tensions have soared between Tehran and Washington since last year, when President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions on Tehran that have crippled its oil-based economy.
The Islamic Republic has rejected negotiating a new deal with the Trump administration, saying talks are only possible if Washington returns to the nuclear pact and lifts sanctions.
“The government is determined to defeat (the enemy) by bypassing America’s sanctions...or through various means including talks, but we will not cross our red lines,” the semi-official Iranian news agency ISNA quoted Rouhani as saying. In a rare act of cooperation between Tehran and Washington, the United States and Iran each freed a prisoner on Saturday.
Washington said it was hopeful that the prisoner swap would lead to the release of other Americans held in Iran and that it was a sign Tehran was willing to discuss other issues.
Iran released Xiyue Wang, a US citizen who had been held for three years on spying charges, while the United States freed Iranian Massoud Soleimani, who had faced charges of violating US sanctions against Tehran.
Iran said on Monday there were about 20 Iranians jailed in the United States in cases linked to sanctions violations.