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Government allows hard-hit sectors to deduct 30% of workers’ salaries based on mutual agreement

By Bahaa Al Deen Al Nawas - May 31,2020 - Last updated at May 31,2020

Public transport is listed among the most-damaged sectors for May of 2020 as announced by the government on Sunday (JT file photo)

AMMAN — Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Omar Razzaz on Sunday issued an announcement stipulating that the “most-damaged” economic sectors and facilities can deduct a percentage from employees’ salaries for May and June, an announcement that was met with public criticism.

According to the announcement, which applies to Defence Order No. 6 for 2020, the sectors most impacted by the coronavirus crisis can deduct 30 per cent of workers’ salaries based on a mutual agreement involving the consent of employees working full-time both on-site and remotely.

The announcement, which listed 24 sectors that can apply the decision to their businesses, also stipulates that workers who are not performing any work can have 60 per cent of their salaries deducted, with no consent required by the worker or the Labour Ministry, under the condition that their salaries do not fall below JD150 once the deduction is implemented.

On social media, people called for better protection for workers as well, urging measures that allow them to handle having their salaries lowered, such as decreasing the costs of bills, rent, taxes and other fees.

On the video announcement published by the Prime Ministry on its official Facebook page, user Khaled Alrayes commented: “Since employees’ salaries will be lowered from 30 to 60 per cent, the cost of water, electricity, telecommunication, public transport, medicine, taxes, licensing in all its forms, fines, rent and tuition fees for schools and universities must be lowered as well to provide balance.”

Lowering a JD220 salary to JD150, for example, while maintaining costs of necessities the same is “unfair”, Alrayes added.

“How will workers who have commitments and loans to pay be protected? There must be a law that protects them; any loan or university tuition fees must be postponed for those working in impacted sectors,” Odai Antoun commented on the decision, noting that such decisions “cannot be randomly taken without calculating the damage that will arise from it”.

Maysaa Shaqaqha wrote: “If loans for individuals are not postponed, employees will not be able to pay them, especially since the private sector will implement this decision for all employees.” She added that she “doubts” that upper management will deduct from their own salaries, although the decision stipulates that the deduction must begin with managers and workers must not be pressured into consenting to the deduction.

The announcement also allows employers of the “most-damaged” businesses to task their employees who are not working, to do remote work for four hours without being paid any more than the 40 per cent of their salaries that they receive.

As for sectors not listed by the Prime Ministry and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Supply on the “most-damaged” list, employers can still deduct 50 per cent of the salaries of employees who have not been working since the defence order was issued, with no need for their consent, granted that the remaining amount is not less than minimum wage.

Moreover, employers can deduct 50 per cent of the annual leaves of employees not performing any work on the field or remotely, under the condition that they have not worked for 30 days, consecutive or not, from when Defence Order No. 6 came into effect until the announcement on Sunday.

The announcement said that to protect employees’ jobs, any employee whose contract ended by April 30 must have their employers automatically renew it for them, cancelling any prior decisions and ensuring that the contract remains valid until the defence order is no longer in effect. After this, renewals can only be made by agreement between employer and employee.

However, a condition for renewal is that the contract must have been renewed three times before April 30. Otherwise, employers can end the services of their employees as per article 28 of the Labour Law. Employees are permitted to submit a complaint to the ministry “if they feel their services were unjustly ended”, according to the announcement.

The announcement and its sections apply to Jordanian workers only, making the Labour Law, rather than the Defence Order, the reference for foreign workers.

The list of the most-damaged sectors for May of 2020 includes tourism facilities, popular restaurants and sweet shops, recruitment facilities, recruitment agencies for domestic workers, public transport, newspapers, companies that organise conferences, exhibits and festivals, avian, land and sea transport and wedding halls and companies that rent wedding equipment.

They also include gyms, swimming pools and baths, cultural centres, clothing, shoes and accessories shops, schools and kindergartens, tourism vehicle rental companies, fitness centres, vocational training centres, recreational and public parks, cinemas and theatres, coffee shops and cafes, advertisement and TV production companies, social and charitable associations, private-sector museums, special private-sector care centres and offices for real-estate companies, law firms and auditing.

The announcement said that the list will be reviewed for June’s salaries based on developments.

Given that the discussion focused on the effects of the deduction on employers’ ability to fulfil their financial commitments, Bilal Abosoltan Al Nawaisheh wrote: “Your excellency, there are people who do not show understanding that we are living in a crisis and working in impacted sectors, demanding that we pay rent, and my salary is JD220 while my rent is JD150, so if I pay rent, I will not be able to buy food afterwards.”

Sanaa Hamdan wrote: “This is unbelievable, the poor will become poorer and people need to have reductions on electricity, water, telecommunication, medicine, rents, fuel, banking interest and other fees and costs.”

Meanwhile, Aysheh Fareed commented: “It will be as if employees will be working for free and will not have enough to pay even for transport.”

The Phenix Centre for Economics and Informatics Studies issued a statement in which it said: “The government should have provided financial support to the damaged facilities rather than encourage deducting from employees’ salaries.”

The centre noted that the measures taken “could deepen economic and social problems, pressuring people’s purchasing ability, increasing unemployment and lowering the chances to overcome the recession of the national economy”.

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