Jordania - Teachers fight for right to form a trade union (2011)

The Minister of Education was forced to apologise over comments he had made calling on teachers to take care of their appearance rather than spend their time demanding a union. The comments had sparked a strike in four governorates in March 2010 and came during a running dispute between teachers and the Education Ministry over the right of teachers to form a professional association, a decades-long ambition that has yet to materialise.

Government officials stated that the striking teachers were acting against their professional duties and violated the law, and also alleged that these were influenced by outside parties seeking to advance «narrow» political agendas. They vowed to «take all appropriate measures» against those who have violated the by-law of the Civil Service Bureau that clearly prohibits any civil servant from taking part in any strike or sit-in.

A committee of teachers was set up in February to lobby for the establishment of an association for teachers, an endeavour that had previously been rejected by the Ministry of Education, which considered it unconstitutional. The Supreme Council for the Interpretation of the Constitution had ruled in 1994 that it is unconstitutional to establish a professional association for teachers (to which membership is mandatory). However, the Prime Minister has reportedly suggested that an alternative to such an organisation may be possible. The Professional Associations Council has also expressed its support for the teachers’ demand to form an association of their own.

On 20 March the Ministry of Education instructed heads of education directorates to check on the attendance of teachers and to provide it with the names of violators. The Ministry informed around 45 teachers involved in the protests that they were to be forced into early retirement or relocated to remote schools as a punishment for their involvement in the strikes. However, in September the government finally decided to cancel these punitive moves.

Strikes, go-slows and protests continued throughout the year although teachers suspended protests in many areas for summer examinations. In December renewed protests were held to once again push the demands for an association.

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