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Teachers association, deputies reach tentative deal

By Khaled Neimat - Aug 21,2014 - Last updated at Aug 21,2014

AMMAN — Just a few days before schools open their doors to students, MPs and the Jordan Teachers Association (JTA) on Thursday announced that they drafted a "tentative agreement" in a bid to end the ongoing open-ended strike by educators.

The agreement follows a week of negotiations and mediation led by the Lower House through its Education Committee, to bridge the gap between the JTA and the government.

Most of the teachers' demands have been met, committee member MP Khalil Atiyeh said after a meeting on Thursday at the JTA premises in Amman.

The JTA's central committee will discuss the agreement on Saturday before the syndicate decides whether to suspend the strike, JTA President Hussam Masheh said.

In a statement released after the meeting, the JTA said the Lower House will guarantee the agreement and hold the government to what has been agreed upon.

Over the past few days the MPs, JTA representatives and senior officials engaged in long meetings to reach an agreement to end the strike before the academic year starts on Sunday.

On Wednesday, the government announced that it will raise by JD50 the salaries of teachers who have been working in a region other than their place of residence over the past five years.

Teachers working in another governorate within the same region will receive a JD40 raise, while those who move districts will get JD30.

Almost 100 teachers working in the southern region of the Kingdom will return to work in schools near their residences in the north.

The government also endorsed the regulations for a teachers solidarity fund, a step MPs said will add to educators’ financial benefits and improve their living standards.

The demand for an across the board raise of 50 per cent on 140,000 teachers' salaries was the only issue to be settled before signing the agreement, a matter that deputies managed to resolve on Thursday during a four-hour meeting with the JTA.

MP Mohammad Qatatsheh, who heads the House's Education Committee, said the teachers accepted a proposal by deputies to guarantee that the government will add a gradual pay increase over the next three years in the state budget.

Later on Thursday, Education Ministry Spokesperson Walid Jallad said the minister, Mohammad Thneibat, was briefed by Qatatsheh on the outcomes of the meeting and thanked the deputies for their mediation efforts, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

But Thneibat said the ministry cannot make any promises to meet financial demands and will not force the government to commit to any future obligations due to the deficit in the state budget, according to Jallad.

The government has said that the JTA’s demands for additional allowances for teachers will cost the Treasury between JD230 million and JD250 million, a figure the JTA disputed, arguing that the cost will not exceed JD 90 million.

The association also wants the government to amend the civil service by-law, improve teachers’ health insurance, draft laws to protect them, endorse the private schools by-law, and refer the education social security fund case to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

Thneibat said on Wednesday that the ministry has referred the fund to the ACC and the Audit Bureau, noting that the Cabinet will discuss proposed amendments to the civil service by-law at its next meeting.

The ministry has also finalised the draft private schools by-law, after meeting with the Association of Owners of Private School, and plans to refer it to the Cabinet and the Legislation and Opinion Bureau, according to Thneibat.

If the JTA approves the deal with the Lower House committee on Saturday, students will be able to return to school the next day, said Qatatsheh.

"We are proud of this achievement," he added.

Deputies expressed their support for the teachers' demands, stressing that they are an essential segment of society and deserve to be treated with respect.

MPs will seek the help of the Judicial Council to ensure better treatment for teachers in courts, Qatatsheh said after Thursday's meeting.

Masheh thanked the MPs for their support, saying "they were behind all the progress we achieved".


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