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UNRWA employees to hold strike Thursday

Employees demand cancellation of exceptional leave without pay

By Hanna Davis - Nov 30,2021 - Last updated at Nov 30,2021

UNRWA workers protest outside of the Baqa’a Camp Health Centre (Photo courtesy of Jordan Labour Watch)

AMMAN — UNRWA employees in the agency’s five areas of operation (Jordan, the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria) plan to strike Thursday unless the UN agency comes forward to meet their demands. 

The strike will follow the “comprehensive warning strike” held on Monday, Head of the UNRWA Workers Union in Jordan Riad Zygan said in a Jordan Labour Watch statement. 

The employees demand the cancellation of exceptional leave without pay and protest the postponement of bonuses amid the agency’s continuous funding shortages, a source close to the UNRWA Workers Union, who preferred to remain anonymous, told The Jordan Times on Monday.

The UN agency has also not paid a number of retired employees who “depend on the social safety net”, Zygan said in separate Jordan Labour Watch statement. 

In Jordan, the strike will stop services for more than two million Palestinian refugees.

Teachers in UNRWA Jordan’s 161 schools will stop classes for almost 120,000 students, 25 UNRWA health centres will postpone critical services, and support will be paused for around 59,000 of the most vulnerable Palestinian refugees, according to UNRWA Jordan figures. 

The strike will have even greater effects on a regional scale, given that the majority of UNRWA’s 20,000 regional employees intend to strike, according to the source. 

The Jordan Labour Watch in the statement noted that they contacted several teachers in the UN agency’s schools, who confirmed they would strike Thursday if the agency did not respond to their demands.

The strike follows three sit-ins UNRWA workers carried out in November in the Kingdom, the statement reported.

The cancellation of the “exceptional leave” clause is the first of the workers’ demands, said the UNRWA Workers Union source.

He added that the clause gives the agency authority to require workers to take mandatory, unpaid leave in the event of severe funding shortages. 

The international donor conference held in Brussels on November 16 left the organisation 40 per cent funded, according to a Foreign Ministry statement. 

However, he noted, the clause has not yet been used, even amid the recent pandemic-related economic hardships, which have turned donor countries’ attention towards their home economies. 

“If it will not be used, then why will it not be cancelled?” the source said. “Cancelling it will not cost UNRWA one dollar. We are not asking UNRWA to pay anything,” he added.

“All services will be paused until UNRWA cancels the rule.”

 

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