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Farmers to protest halt to guest worker recruitment

By Hana Namrouqa - Aug 15,2016 - Last updated at Aug 15,2016

AMMAN — Farmers are planning to stage a sit-in in front of the Prime Ministry on Sunday to protest the government’s decision to stop the recruitment of new guest workers in the Kingdom.

The Jordan Farmers Union called for the sit-in, claiming that the government’s decision would have a “catastrophic impact” on the agricultural sector.

The Labour Ministry announced that it had stopped the recruitment of new guest workers on June 28, in an effort to regulate the labour market and study the number of guest workers in Jordan. 

Jordan Farmers Union Director General Mahmoud Oran said on Monday that the government aimed to replace guest workers with Jordanian or Syrian employees, a move he said would not succeed. 

“The agriculture sector does not have the capacity to employ local workers because it doesn’t offer social security or health insurance. Also, the facts that agricultural work is seasonal and doesn’t offer job security are other reasons why locals are not suited to work in the sector…” Oran told The Jordan Times.

Egyptian workers are willing to sleep at the farms and are experienced in agricultural work, he added. 

The Labour Ministry said that a comprehensive survey on the labour market is under way to identify a precise number of national and guest workers as well as their distribution in various sectors.

Preliminary estimates indicate that there are 750,000 foreign workers in the Kingdom and only 300,000 of them have work permits.

In recent remarks, Labour Minister Ali Ghezawi said some 100,000 guest workers are employed in the agricultural sector, only 40 per cent of whom have permits. Of those with permits to work in agriculture, 70 per cent have illegally moved to work in other sectors.

According to the Agriculture Ministry’s figures, some 95 per cent of agricultural workers are guest labourers.

Oran said that if the government responds to the farmers’ demands, the union will cancel the planned sit-in, but warned that the farmers will escalate their protest if the government fails to respond. 

Meanwhile, Jordan Valley Farmers Union President Adnan Khaddam told The Jordan Times that a series of meetings with the government has taken place over the past week.

A committee comprising the ministers of labour, agriculture and water has been formed to resolve the issue, he noted.

Khaddam underscored that the Jordan Valley Farmers Union is willing to withhold its participation in the sit-in if the government reconsiders its decision. 

The union held a sit-in in front of the Labour Ministry in late July, when farmers said that there were no workers to prepare the land for the agricultural season.

 

They added that the shortage of guest workers would add to the sector’s losses, in light of the closure of the borders with Syria and Iraq.

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