Teachers in Jordan are underpaid, yet parents are suing them for going on strike

Teachers in Jordan are underpaid, yet parents are suing them for going on strike

The parents have cited concerns over the impact the strike will have on their children's education.

September 20th, 7:45 amSeptember 20th, 7:45 amMariam Nabbout

Parents of Jordanian students affected by the ongoing country-wide public teachers' strike are suing several individuals involved in it. Citing concerns over the impact the strike will have on their children's education, the complainants took the matter to court.

On Thursday, members of the Jordanian Teachers Syndicate (JTS) – who are now defendants in the case – were due to appear in a West Amman court in order to enter their pleas.

The country's Minister of Legal Affairs, Mubarak Ali Abu Yamin, said the strike is illegal, explaining that it constitutes "a breach of Article 5 of the Jordan Teachers Association's own rules, which prohibits tampering with the rights of students to learn." However, founder and director of the Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies, Ahmad Awad, stressed that the protests are in fact legal and a civil act intended to improve Jordanian lives.

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The strike has entered its twelfth day and was launched by teachers across the country after negotiations with the government regarding an increase in their salaries yielded no results. Instructors are still adamant about not teaching until their demands of a 50-percent raise – promised to them in 2014 – are met.

In a bid to find a solution, the country's government is currently conducting discussion sessions with members of JTS. Jordan's Prime Minister Omar Razzaz attended the second meeting held on Monday and described it as "constructive."

Despite the official's positive outlook, the session ended without a resolution and another one was scheduled to take place on Thursday. Local analysts believe no settlement will be reached unless a salary raise is approved for public sector teachers who receive a monthly payment of $565. Given that the purchasing power of the money they get has been depleted due to "inflation and new taxes that have been levied over recent years," educators argue the amount is no longer sufficient to cover their most basic expenses.

Jordan's current annual budget cannot bear costs of raises

The agreement prior to the strikes was that teachers would get raises based on merits and improved performances, which could result in a 250 percent raise for the educator, instead of just 50 percent. Vice President of JTS, Naser Nawasrah, countered this settlement, noting "If they can make money available based on merit, then the excuse that there is no money is rejected."

At the time being, the country's 2019 budget cannot bear a 112-billion-dinar ($158 million) dent. Therefore, in an attempt to reach consensus and keep the budget from going under, Wajih Oweis, former education minister, suggested last week a five-year-plan during which teachers would get a 10 percent raise each year.

In response to the aforementioned suggestion, Nawasrah disclosed to Radio Al-Balad during an aired interview that the government had not yet provided members 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," he explained.

The strike was motivated by the violence teachers were faced with during protests

The ongoing strike started days after an initial one took place earlier this month. During the first strike, protesters dispersed after Public Security Department (PSD) officers fired tear gas at them and arrested a number of them. At the time, Nawasrah spoke on behalf of angered members, saying "[the teachers] will not enter the classrooms until those responsible for transgressions against teachers during Thursday's protest are held accountable."

In their defense, the PSD responded in a statement to press explaining that their personnel had practiced restraint, however, they "were driven to the use of force by some protesters who were shoving their way to reach the Fourth Circle [in Amman]."

Prime Minister Razzaz has continuously attempted to put a halt to the protests by hinting at possible legal implications that may befall the JTS.

In an interview with Jordan Television last Tuesday, he said: "There is a legal aspect to the strike; we believe in a strong state that is ruled by the law, and strong society and institutions that abide by it. In the event the [Jordan Teachers Syndicate (JTS)] insists on continuing with the strike, every action will have its consequence."

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