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PM hints at legal measures if teachers' strike continues as it enters 4th day

Gov't wants to build on agreement with previous JTA council, 'not start over'

By JT - Sep 11,2019 - Last updated at Sep 11,2019

Prime Minister Omar Razzaz speaks during an interview with Jordan Television to discuss the teachers’ strike on Tuesday (Petra photo)

AMMAN — Prime Minister Omar Razzaz on Tuesday hinted at possible legal measures that could be taken if teachers persisted with their open strike, which was set to enter its fourth day Wednesday with no agreement in sight.

"There is a legal aspect to the strike; we believe in a strong state that is ruled by the law, and strong society and institutions that abide by it. In the event the [Jordan Teachers Association (JTA)] insists on continuing with the strike, every action will have its consequence," Razzaz said in a televised interview in his first public remarks since the announcement of the strike.

A three-hour meeting between the government and the JTA Monday failed to arrive at an agreement regarding the teachers' demand for a 50-per cent pay raise.

In the interview with Jordan Television, held to address the government’s stance on the teachers’ strike, the premier said that it had reached a “comprehensive agreement” with the JTA's previous council on all issues, with living conditions at the forefront, stressing that the government is adamant on that agreement.

“We were waiting to resume dialogue with the JTA’s current council where we had left off with the previous one, rather than start over,” the premier noted. 

The former agreement allowed for the value of teachers’ incentives to reach up to 250 per cent of their basic salary as opposed to the 50 per cent currently being demanded, Razzaz said. 

He explained that the prospects of a 250-per cent raise were tied to performance indicators, noting that incentives should positively impact the academic achievement of students and the development of the educational process.

“We had hoped that the JTA would hold talks with the government with regards to reviewing the agreement’s clauses as opposed to protesting and striking,” he added.

The JTA says that the 50-per cent raise was agreed with the government five years ago but failed to materialise, and has held a sit-in in Amman on Thursday to demand it be implemented, but the protest escalated into an open strike as the teachers’ were dissatisfied with the government’s response.

The sit-in was called for by the association’s former president, Ahmad Hajaya, who died in a car accident a week before the scheduled protest.

The prime minister, during the interview, referred to the government’s various meetings with Hajaya, during which he “strongly and reasonably pursued the rights of teachers”, stressing that the government would not delay dialogue with the teachers. 

Razzaz stressed that students must not be used as means to pressure the government into fulfilling demands. 

The government is aware of the importance of improving the living conditions of teachers, “in accordance with their performance”, the premier said, adding that the teachers “utterly refused to discuss the matter”. 

“The government is aware that living and financial conditions pose a challenge before teachers, which hinders their ability to perform to their full potential,” Razzaz reiterated, adding that upgrading these elements should be tied to performance indicators that reward “distinguished teachers”. 

“We are aware that the majority of teachers arrive early to school to ensure a proper start to the students’ day and stay after school to ensure that all the students have left campus, as part of their commitment to the message of education. However, there is a minority that does not believe in the entirety of the process and we cannot reward both sides,” the premier underscored.

Razzaz noted that the government is currently working on a “comprehensive project”, parts of which would be implemented soon, that aims to improve living conditions and boost the productivity and efficiency of human resources. 

The premier stressed the government’s belief in freedom of expression, as mandated by the constitution, noting that the constitution also guarantees the right to education.

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