Defense Law suspension raises concerns for workers

Checkpoint during COVID-19 lockdown. (File photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN — In a move that has sparked concerns among workers, the recent decision to suspend Jordan's Defense Law has raised questions about job security and the possibility of restructuring within establishments. اضافة اعلان

Defense Order No. 6, implemented by then prime minister, Omar Al-Razzaz, three-and-a-half years ago, aimed to protect workers during the COVID-19 pandemic by prohibiting terminations while allowing for wage reductions, according to Ammon News.

However, following the suspension, all defense orders and communications related to labor relations, including the prohibition on terminating employees, have come to an end.

Potential job losses and cost-cutting measuresThere is now widespread apprehension that companies may exploit the absence of defense orders to dismiss existing employees and replace them with cheaper alternatives.

Economist Hussam Ayesh expressed concerns about the lack of complete protection for workers under the defense orders, highlighting instances where employees had their services terminated during the pandemic in violation of these orders.

He also noted that rising costs have compelled many establishments to seek cost-effective labor, given the surplus of job seekers in the market.

Ayesh further emphasized that the termination threat faced by workers is not solely a consequence of the Defense Law suspension but is also influenced by technological advancements witnessed globally over the past three years.

With the proliferation of remote work, working from home, and the advent of new electronic processes and artificial intelligence, there is a potential for thousands of employees to be replaced by automation.

Challenges of returning to normalcyAyesh argued that Jordan should aim to establish a normal economic environment rather than relying on exceptional measures like the Defense Law.

While the economy has shown signs of recovery post-COVID, the nation still grapples with pre-existing economic issues, such as high unemployment rates. With costs on the rise, businesses are increasingly seeking ways to optimize expenses, including reducing labor costs by employing cheaper workers.

This scenario, he said, coupled with limited job opportunities, poses challenges for the workforce.

Differing perspectives on job securityHowever, not all experts share the same apprehensions.

Hamada Abu Najma, former general-secretary of the Labor Ministry and head of the Labor House Association for Studies, believes that mass terminations in the private sector are unlikely following the suspension of the Defense Law.

Abu Najma asserted that existing labor laws would safeguard employees and prevent arbitrary dismissals.

Citing Article 23 of the Labor Law, he emphasized that terminations must be justified and supported by valid reasons. Unjustified dismissals would require compensation or reinstatement, with the only difference being the absence of punitive penalties under the previous defense orders.

Legal conditions for terminationAbu Najma clarified that the Labor Law outlines specific conditions under which a worker's services may be terminated.

Article 28 of the law specifies nine violations that can lead to dismissal, while Article 21 deals with contract termination due to reasons such as mutual agreement, retirement age, or contract expiration.

Article 35 allows for termination during the three-month probationary period, while Article 31 permits contract termination or suspension in cases of economic or financial exigencies, subject to the approval of the Ministry of Labor's tripartite committee.

Abu Najma stressed the importance of the government's proactive measures to educate workers about their rights and the provisions of the Labor Law.

By raising awareness, disputes, violations, and cases of illegal dismissal can be minimized. Additionally, he emphasized the need for effective monitoring by the government to ensure compliance with labor laws.

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