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Ad-Dustour lays off 46 employees as JPA reiterates rejection of restructuring

By JT - May 03,2015 - Last updated at May 03,2015

AMMAN — Ad-Dustour daily’s administration has laid off 46 staff members, including eight journalists, as the paper’s financial crisis continues, an employee said Sunday.

Ad-Dustour photojournalist Hamzeh Mazraawi said the laid-off employees also included printing press workers and administrative staff members, adding that they were given official letters on Sunday notifying them that their services had been terminated.

In a statement released later in the day, the Jordan Press Association (JPA) reiterated its absolute rejection of the move as part of a restructuring plan, and said it will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the issue. 

JPA President Tareq Momani said this decision violates the rights of workers, criticising its timing on World Press Freedom Day, which should be an occasion to reassure journalists that their jobs are secure, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

Ad-Dustour employees issued a statement urging the relevant authorities to resolve the print media crisis in Jordan, calling on the Lower House’s National Guidance Committee to push for abandoning any restructuring plans at dailies.

Employees of Jordan’s oldest Arabic daily said managements of newspapers are threatening their workers with restructuring plans, blaming the decision on pressure from the government and the Lower House.

They said they have not received salaries for the past six months, noting that the drop in the number of employees — from 580 two years ago to 320 now — has not had any effect on the economic conditions of the newspaper.

The state-owned Social Security Investment Fund owns nearly 30 per cent of the Jordan Press and Publishing Company, which publishes Ad-Dustour, while the Jordan Engineers Association owns 18 per cent and the newspaper’s employee fund owns 5 per cent. Other shares are owned by private shareholders.

Also on Sunday, the Lower House National Guidance Committee held a meeting with stakeholders to follow up on the implementation of MPs’ recommendations to improve the situation of print media outlets, according to Petra. 

Its chairman, Zakariya Sheikh, said the committee is not involved in the process of restructuring newspapers, noting that its recommendations, approved by the Lower House, summarise the consensus reached among stakeholders, including board members of Arabic dailies, Petra reported.

The House had urged the government to play a major role in salvaging dailies, recommending that the country’s major newspapers, especially Ad-Dustour, embark on restructuring their staff with the aim of controlling excess labour and raising the efficiency of workers.

In late April, the Cabinet raised the public advertisement rate in newspapers from 100 fils to 250 fils per word. The government had been paying 65 fils per word since 1973 until February 2014 when it increased the rate to 100 fils.

The Cabinet also decided to exempt newspaper production inputs from customs duties for a period of two years, and agreed to allow public institutions to increase their subscriptions to newspapers by 100 per cent. 

Sector insiders welcomed the decisions at the time, but said more needs to be done.

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