The government on Sunday said that there will be no compromise regarding its position on teachers’ demands for a pay raise. Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh, attending a Parliament session yesterday, underlined that the Kingdom “might be going through an unprecedented financial and economic crisis”. “The budget the government has presented is the most austerity-driven one in the history of Jordan,” he stressed.
Teachers across the country went on strike last week at the start of the spring term to demand a long-promised increase in their professional allowances from 70 to 100 percent of their basic salaries. Members of Parliament met with leaders of the strike the day before, producing a suggestion to end the week-long strike by raising the allowance to 90 percent this year and adding the remaining 10 percent next year, retroactively, instead of increasing the existing 70 percent allowance by 10 percent this year, while the remaining 20 percent would be phased over the coming two years, as the government had previously offered. “The offer we granted to teachers is excellent by all means in light of the current situation,” the premier declared. Meanwhile, teachers’ representatives on Sunday fell into a dispute over the next step in their campaign to press the government to meet their demands.
As President of the Jordan Teachers’ Committee Abdul Ghafour Qaraan said that teachers would end their strike today and start giving lessons as usual, the spokesperson of the same committee, Sultan Batayneh, said that these were “false” statements and that educators would continue their strike until a “Cabinet decision is taken granting them their rights”. The conflict among the teachers prompted the committee to remove Qaraan from his position as president of the committee, according to Batayneh. “Members of the committee have agreed unanimously to dismiss Qaraan,” Batayneh told The Jordan Times yesterday, calling on teachers not to “give an ear” to teachers who make individual statements on behalf of themselves. The National Committee to Revive the Teachers Association and the Amman Free Teachers Committee also pledged to continue the strike, which entered its second week yesterday. “Khasawneh’s remarks are inaccurate, particularly when he talks about austerity and raises the allowance of University of Jordan employees by hundreds of dinars,” said rapporteur of the Amman Free Teachers Committee, Raed Azzam, wondering why the government only “speaks of a financial crisis and plans to tighten expenditures when it comes to teachers”.
Despite teacher activists stating that no classes were held regularly yesterday, Education Minister Eid Dahiyat told lawmakers that lessons had resumed in 62 percent of schools, reiterating that the ministry has “ready” alternatives to deal with striking teachers. “We have contacted teachers from the Armed Forces, Gendarmerie and the police and they showed their readiness to start giving lessons in schools,” Dahiyat said addressing the Lower House session, noting that the ministry will also resort to retired teachers and those registered with the Civil Service Bureau. Such plans have stirred rage among teachers, who have questioned the ministry’s ability to substitute hundreds of thousands of teachers.