Jordan investigates top members of teachers' union

Official says several investigations open and court summons issued to council members

Jordanian teachers confront security forces in the capital Amman on the first day of their strike on September 5, 2019. AFP
Jordanian teachers confront security forces in the capital Amman on the first day of their strike on September 5, 2019. AFP

Jordanian authorities have closed the country's teacher's union and sacked its leadership. The Amman Attorney General Hassan Al Abdullat said on Saturday that members of the council of the teachers' union have been relieved of their duties pending several investigations including into corruption allegations and incitement on social media.

The official Petra news agency said the council members were subject to court summons to be questioned in front of a special prosecutor looking into the ongoing cases.

A decision had also been taken to suspend the activities of members of the union's central organisation and the management of its branches. The union's headquarters will be closed for two years.

The teachers' union is one of the most vocal independent organisations in the country and its leadership threatened in recent weeks to take to the streets if its demands for improved pay were not met.

The teachers ended a month-long strike late last year after a pay deal but the union says the government has not yet implemented the agreement signed in October.

Mr Al Abdullat on Saturday banned Jordanian media from reporting on the dispute, underlining the sensitivity of an issue that strikes at the heart of the country's huge public sector, whose salaries consume a large part of the budget.

Jordan's economy, already burdened by high debt, has been hit by a months-long lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus, although the government allowed most businesses to reopen last month.

Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said in a televised address in late June that Jordan’s revenues had plunged by 550 million dinars (Dh2.85 billion) over the previous four months as a result of the pandemic.

As a result of the financial situation, the government decided to defer salary increases for employees across the public sector until next year, he said.

The head of the teacher's union, Naser Al Nawasra, has publicly insisted in recent weeks that the teachers would not back down from their demand for pay increases, including in a YouTube video where he is seen saying "We are the state".

A teacher who declined to be named told The National that security forces had arrested Mr Al Nawasra's deputy, Suleiman Al Mahayra, and several other senior union members in the past few days.

"The union has 80,000 dues-paying members. Some are being arrested and security forces have deployed at our headquarters," the teacher said.

He could not confirm whether Mr Al Nawasra had been detained.

Updated: July 26, 2020 08:25 AM

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