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Pool lifeguards join calls for job security amid sector’s closure

By JT - Jan 06,2021 - Last updated at Jan 06,2021

AMMAN — The decision to shut down swimming pools has resulted in lifeguards losing their jobs, a statement from the Phenix Centre for Economic and Informatics Studies said on Wednesday.

Workers in the sports sector, including lifeguards, were hopeful that gyms and swimming pools will open by 2021, but the latest statement from Health Minister Nathir Obeidat has turned their hopes down, as he said that fears are still present in light of recording five new cases of the new strain of the coronavirus.

Hundreds of lifeguards have been complaining for a long time about achieving job security, especially since many of them work in private pools and gyms without health or social insurances, and although they received relatively high compensation, the prolonged closure of swimming pools suspension has hit them hard, the statement said.

Swimming pools in gyms, hotels and tourist residential complexes closed in mid-March last year in a response to the outbreak of the pandemic in the Kingdom. They were reopened at the start of June only to be closed again in November.

Loay, a resident in Amman in his 20s, worked as a lifeguard in a gym in the capital for an entire year but was not subscribed to social security or given health insurance, and he told the Phenix Centre that this was the deal from the beginning with the management, with the contract being on a monthly basis.

However, after the gym started developing fears from the sudden closure decisions, they agreed with Loay to make his contract on a weekly basis, given the possibility of shutting down at any time.

“The management’s expectations came true as no news regarding reopening the sector emerged,” the statement said, noting that this led Loay to eventually lose his job as a lifeguard after receiving only half of his salary for November and receiving an apology that the gym will not be able to pay his salary in the following month.

Lifeguards typically do not depend on their fixed monthly salaries, but rather on extra income they earn as swimming trainers by giving private lessons to groups and individuals, according to the statement.

“I used to make around JD1,000 a month and suddenly I am making nothing,” Loay, who ended up working in an electronics shop on a daily basis, told the Phenix Centre.

Executive Director of the Dead Sea Friends Association Zaid Sawalqa told the Phenix Centre that the only thing that alleviated the challenges facing lifeguards is that beaches are still open, which allowed some hotels, five-star hotels, to preserve a number of guards.

Preserving public health is important, Sawalqa said, but the work of the thousands of people affected by closure of sectors must also be taken into consideration.

The government issued Circular No. 18 under Defence Order No. 6 addressing the salaries of workers working in the hard-hit sectors and those not allowed to operate, which include gyms and pools.

Under the circular, workers benefitting from the government’s “Istidama” programme receive 75 per cent of their monthly salaries in hard-hit sectors, whereas the percentage is 50 for workers in sectors not allowed to operate, the statement said, noting that this applies from December until the end of May 2021.

There are 2,570 licensed lifeguards in Jordan, of whom, 500 to 700 renew their licences annually and work in the profession, the statement quoted Ghanem Haddad, head of the sports training department at the Youth Ministry, as saying.

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