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Hopes of end to strike dissipate as teachers reject gov’t’s raises decision

Razzaz announces unilateral decision for JD24-JD31 raises; teachers describe amount as ‘crumbs’

By JT - Sep 29,2019 - Last updated at Sep 29,2019

Prime Minister Omar Razzaz speaks during an interview on Jordan Television after a Cabinet meeting to discuss teachers’ strike (Photo courtesy of Prime Ministry)

AMMAN — Teachers announced on Saturday that the strike is continuing through its fourth week after a government decision applying raises ranging between JD24 and JD31 for all teachers, effective October first should the strike end, with the Jordan Teachers Association describing the raises as “crumbs”.

As the stakes got higher and the strike entered its fourth week, the decision was made unilaterally from the government following intensified talks over the weekend between the government and the Jordan Teachers Association (JTA) that failed to reach consensus over teachers’ demand for a 50-per cent raise, which they say was promised by the government five years ago.

In an interview on Jordan Television following a Cabinet meeting to discuss the strike, Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said that decision was taken unilaterally without the JTA’s approval because “time is not on our side”, stressing that as the strike continues, “the window is closing” on the possibility of compensating students for time lost from the school year, and urging the JTA to suspend the strike and consider students’ rights.

For its part, the JTA said in a video statement on its official Facebook page that teachers are able to compensate students for all days they have messed.

Razzaz said that the Cabinet meeting was aimed at deciding on the highest figure for raises that the government is able to incur, and took the decision accordingly, noting that this raise would cost the Treasury some JD26 million, instead of the 112 million a 50 per cent raise would cost, and that he has instructed studying measures to cover the needed funds, “including borrowing”.

Under the decision, the raises would be applied under the promotion system currently in effect, where all teachers ranked as “assistant teacher”, numbering 36,755, would receive a JD24 pay raise on their monthly salary, and those ranked as “teacher”, constituting 31,013, would receive a JD25 raise.

As for 18,253 teachers ranked as “first teacher”, the raise would amount to JD28, and 335 teachers with an “expert” rank would receive a raise of JD31.

The premier said that the amount is “not up to teachers’ aspirations’”, but it is all the government can afford.

JTA Vice President Naser Nawasrah said in the statement that the raise comprises only 80 piasters a day, describing it as “crumbes that barely cover the cost of a sandwich and a cup of tea”, and said that the government should keep it as “a donation” from teachers.

Nawasrah said in the statement that the figures announced by the government do not amount to 10 per cent of teachers’ demands, nor do they raise to the level of the numbers that were on the discussion table.

The representative said that teachers “want to share with everyone what is already in this country”, calling on the government to restructure pay for all its employees as an “out” from the crisis.

“We go hungry together, we get full together,” Nawasrah said.

Razzaz also said during the interview that “teachers are not aware of the numbers being discussed during the meetings with the JTA”, which was another motive for the government to take the decision unilaterally.

He noted that the decision also includes amendments to the rank system, whereby moving from rank to rank would be based on measures that affect the performance in the classrooms, such as training courses, instead of the theoretical requirements previously adopted by the system.

He added that there would also be a programme that rewards excelling teachers, of which some 10,000 teachers would benefit.

On Thursday, hopes were high that an agreement would be reached to end the crisis, which enters its fourth week today, after Razzaz said that the two sides were in discussions over “specific figures”, and that he instructed the Education Ministry to “intensify efforts over the next 48 hours to facilitate the return of students to classroom next week”.

At the time, teachers also expressed their optimism that a deal that fulfils their demands would be reached soon.

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