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Campaign speaks up against violations of teachers’ rights

By Mays Ibrahim Mustafa - Jul 06,2022 - Last updated at Jul 06,2022

Representative image (File photo)

AMMAN — Each time the school’s owner lowered teachers’ salaries, he would say:  “If you don’t like it then leave. We’ll bring someone else,” a teacher in Ajloun who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, told The Jordan Times.

The teacher started working at the private school in September 2021 with a salary of JD140 per month. Two weeks later, the school’s administration held a meeting, announcing that salaries of the entire staff will be reduced to JD120, regardless of experience. Roughly a month later salaries were lowered to JD100, she said. 

“When I first started working with them, I didn’t know that my salary was below minimum wage and I needed the job,” the teacher said, noting that she only received JD40 during the four months she worked at the school. 

The teacher received what she believed to be the rest of her financial rights in April 2022 — JD100 for each month, she told The Jordan Times. 

She now works at a different school that pays the minimum wage, but she noted that her colleagues at her previous job said that the situation is still the same. 

A survey conducted in April by the “Stand With The Teacher” campaign, covering a sample of 1,000 teachers from various governorates, found that 54 per cent of respondents receive salaries below minimum wage and 47 per cent of them do not receive their salaries through the bank.

The Ministry of Education’s decision to require the transfer of teachers’ salaries on their bank accounts came into effect in 2019 to protect their financial rights.

Supported by the National Committee for Pay Equity and the International Labour Organisation, “Stand With The Teacher” campaign was launched in 2015 by a group of teachers in Irbid. 

The campaign has organised local teams of representatives in various governorates, advocating for the rights of female teachers in the private education sector, according to organisers. 

According to the campaign’s general coordinator, Nariman Shawaheen, some schools only transfer teacher’s salaries by bank a few times at the beginning of the year to get their renewal permit from the ministry and others force their teachers to return part of the money after receiving it.

She pointed out that these schools do not adhere to the minimum wage for teachers in the private education sector, which is a baseline of JD270 and an additional JD3 for each year of experience plus a 5 per cent yearly increase.

“The fact that three years later there are still schools that manage to circumvent the law shows that there isn’t enough oversight on the private education sector,” Shawaheen told The Jordan Times.

She recounted several other violations that teachers have dealt with, including being pressured to sign on promissory notes for large sums of money at the beginning of the school year, which employers use as a way to control teachers throughout the duration of their contracts, “striping them from their labour rights and forcing them to keep silent if any violations of occur”.

Ending teachers’ contracts at the end of every school year and rehiring them with a new contract at the beginning of the new school year is also a common practice, Shawaheen said. 

According to the General Syndicate of Workers in Private Education, the unified contract for teachers in the private sector is 10 months long, from September 1 to June 30. If the school renews a teacher’s contract, it becomes 12 months long, from July 1 to June 30, which makes them entitled to a summer salary. 

Denying teachers a summer salary means they have to cover their social security deductions on their own or pause payments, which can affect their retirement plan. 

A 51-year-old teacher from Irbid with a similar situation contacted the campaign. She worked at the same school for 20 years but never received a summer salary because the school hired her with a new contract every year, according to Shawaheen.

She added that the campaign receives complaints of up to 10 pregnant teachers a year saying that schools ended or tried to end their contracts when their employers found out about their pregnancy to evade giving them maternity leaves.

“We’re also dealing with the issue of the gender wage gap in the private sector, as male teachers are often paid much more than their female peers, who make up 80 per cent of teachers in the private sector in Jordan,” Shawaheen said.

She noted these mounting challenges and violations against teachers directly affect the education system as a whole. 

“Since the campaign was established in 2015 we have receive roughly 10,000 to 12,000 complaints and inquiries related to the Jordanian Labour Law and the unified contract for workers in private schools. We always try to encourage teachers who call the campaign to file a complaint on the Ministry of Labour’s ‘Himayah’ or [protection] platform, but the majority of them refuse to do that because “they have lost faith in it,” Shawaheen said. 

“In most cases, when a teacher files a complaint against a school, the Ministry of Labour conducts an inspection and fines that school a JD100, but it doesn’t ensure that the teacher regains her usurped financial rights. The tough economic situation and teachers’ fear for their source of living also prevent them from filing complaints when their rights are violated,” she noted, stressing the importance of increasing imposed penalties and enforcing more deterrent laws.

Director of the Ministry’s Central Inspection Department Haitham Najdawi told the The Jordan Times that when the ministry receives a complaint from a teacher, an inspector investigates its validity. If it is proven that the school violated any labour laws, a warning is issued to the school to correct the situation, he noted. 

Shawaheen added that “legal empowerment” of female teachers in the private education sector is among the campaign’s main goals.

“We conduct legal literacy programmes and awareness campaigns to ensure that teachers know their rights and don’t give into pressures to sign a resignation or any other papers besides the unified contract. We also sometimes use various scenarios to train female teachers on how to demand their rights from employers in a confident, lenient and calm manner,” she said.

Shawaheen noted that to date the campaign’s local teams have worked directly with over 5,500 teachers from various governorates.

 

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