Jordanian Electric Power Company  (JEPCO) workers began an open-ended strike on Sunday, demanding improved living conditions and threatening power cuts if their demands are not met.
Ahmad Meri, President of the Workers’ Independent Union, said the strike would continue until the company met the workers’ demands, stressing that staff at JEPCO’s control centre and emergency offices had been excluded from the strike to make sure that power is not disrupted. If the company does not respond to the employees’ demands, however, these demands will increase and the union may resort as early as tomorrow to reducing the number of emergency teams from 10 to four and causing electricity disruptions, he told The Jordan Times.
“Hopefully, we will not have to do so,” he stressed. The company has more than 2,600 workers and between 1,400 and 1,500 are registered with the union. Over 1,300 are participating in what Meri called a “successful strike”. The employees are demanding improved financial benefits, including a four-month bonus salary each year, end of service allowances, better health insurance and transportation services for all workers, Meri said, but the company has refused to negotiate.
“JEPCO is one of the strongest companies in the Kingdom and its employees should receive benefits like those of other firms,” a worker, who declined to be named, told the Jordan Times yesterday. “Other companies’ workers are given much better benefits while our conditions have not been improved,” the employee said. “The company hires mainly technicians who work eight hours a days, besides administrative staff who work seven hours a day.”
The utility company, which serves the Kingdom’s central region, is responsible for providing electricity to about 66 per cent of Jordanian consumers, according to its website.
CEGCO  strike
Meanwhile, a strike by workers at the Central Electricity Generating Company (CEGCO) demanding improved work conditions entered its sixth day on Sunday. Ali Hadid, President of the Electricity Workers Union (EWU), said a meeting would be held today at the Lower House in an attempt to resolve the dispute, stressing that the workers will continue the strike until their demands are met.
In addition to representatives of the union and CEGCO, Minister of Energy Qutaiba Abu Qura and Labour Minister Maher Wakid are to attend the meeting, called by head of the Lower House Energy Committee Deputy Khalaf Zyoud (Zarqa, 3rd District). “If they present proposals that meet our demands, we will suspend the strike ,” Hadid said, voicing hope that the Lower House will resolve the issue.
He reiterated that the employees have no intention of causing power outages, “but when the strike started, the company attempted to switch off generating units at the Aqaba thermal electricity unit so as to spur clashes between the workers and citizens”.
Night shift workers, who remained in their posts, refused to obey the management’s orders, he said, and so there have not been any disruptions as a result of the strike.
CEGCO CEO Abdul Fattah Nsour told The Jordan Times last week that the company had attempted to add workers to the night shift and shut off one generator in Aqaba to protect the overworked employees. Nsour was not available for comment Sunday, despite several attempts to contact him. Hadid charged that the company only seeks to make profits and does not believe in the need to improve workers’ conditions.
The labour ministry referred the issue to the Labour Court last week after meetings between CEGCO management, EWU representatives and Wakid failed to produce an agreement. The employees’ demands include salary increases, cost of living raises, hazard pay and improved health insurance coverage.