Jordanian govt. shuts down largest teachers’ union, detains its leaders

The Jordanian Teachers Syndicate, the largest union in the country with over 100,000 members, is being persecuted days after it staged a rally demanding that the government implement an agreement signed in October over hiking educators’ wages

July 27, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
After an almost month-long strike Jordanian teachers won concessions from the government in October 2019: File Photo

On July 25, Saturday, Jordanian judicial authorities ordered the closing down of the country’s largest teachers’ union, the Jordanian Teachers Syndicate, for the next two years. Jordanian security forces also detained several of the union’s leaders for questioning, as well as raided union offices. The union’s acting head has been charged by the authorities with ‘incitement’ based on a speech he made last year that was critical of the government under prime minister Omar al Razzaz.

Other members of the union’s council were also summoned for questioning over ‘criminal and corruption charges’. The official action comes just days after the teachers’ union staged a large demonstration against the government for not fulfilling its commitment to increase teachers’ salaries in accordance with a 2019 agreement.

The prosecutor general in Amman, Hassan Abdallat, on Saturday, ordered a complete shutdown of the union’s headquarters, along with all of its branches and offices across Jordan, reported official news agency Petra. The exact details of the charges slapped on the union members have not been disclosed so far. Abdallat was quoted as saying that the charges included ‘financial violations’. Additionally, a gag order has also been issued with respect to the investigations.

The Jordanian Teachers Syndicate counts more than 100,000 teachers as its members. It has been organizing protest demonstrations regularly after the government failed to honor an agreement on wage increases signed with the union following a massive month-long nationwide strike in October 2019. The strike had resulted in most schools in the country remaining closed. The agreement reached stipulated wage hikes ranging from 35 to 75% for the teachers depending on experience, seniority, etc. It also included as one of its clauses a 50% salary increase in the year 2020.

However, the government broke the agreement in April, announcing a decision to halt public sector wage hikes this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic slowdown. Jordan has so far recorded 1,154 cases of COVID-19, resulting in 11 deaths. Jordanian King Abdullah II recently claimed that the outbreak in the country is under control and the government is now focusing on stabilizing and reopening the economy.

The Jordanian Teachers Syndicate has stated that it will stage a demonstration on July 29, Wednesday, against actions against the union, including the arbitrary arrests of its leaders. Union leader Nasir al-Nawasra reminded the Jordanian government of its earlier promises, urging them to implement the salary hikes in order to resolve the ongoing dispute between the union and the government.