Labor protests decrease during 2020

Low numbers ‘will not last’, experts say

An undated photo of factory workers in Jordan. (File Photo: Jordan News)
An undated photo of factory workers in Jordan. (File Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — Labor protests are on the decline, according to a new report from Jordan Labor Watch in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. The annual report found that 145 protests took place in 2020, compared with 266 in 2019. اضافة اعلان

“The decrease in labor protests does not mean that we as employees are happy and satisfied,” said Mohammad Al Abdallah, who lost his job during the pandemic, in an interview with Jordan News. “It is just because of the lockdowns and curfew caused by the pandemic in the last year.

Honestly I expect the number to be double as soon as the curfews and lockdowns end. We are tired, some of us have lost our jobs and the others suffer from a huge decrease in their salaries.”

“I need to have a job, I was happy at my job until the pandemic took place,” Abdallah went on. “Everything has changed. The owner of the company decided to reduce the number of the employees and I was one of those who lost their job. I tried for months to find a new job but I could not. Emigration is the only solution I guess.”

“The government must work hard to find jobs for all of those who lost their jobs. At the end of the day, we do not want an increase in unemployment and thus an increase in poverty,” he added.

According to Eman Al Said, a sociologist, “protests are a normal and expected results for those who need or want something. It is a popular method of expression.” 

Said told Jordan News that the decrease will likely not persist for long. “Protests will take place always, despite a slight increase or decrease in their numbers. I see that this is a big decrease for now but I cannot guarantee that the number will remain as it is next year,” she said. “The current situation due to the pandemic is bad, as there is a constant rise in unemployment and people are angry. They want to express their anger and objection. “ 

“The government must find jobs for those who lost their jobs, and for those who have been looking for jobs for years,” the sociologist said, adding that fresh graduates spending years looking for employment is not uncommon, “so they end up emigrating. This is a bad indication, (because) we are losing youths who are full of energy and have a lot to contribute to society,” Said stated. “I believe in youths and in what they can give, and I want them to be given the opportunities they deserve.”

Ahmad Awad, general manager of the Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies and director of Jordan Labor Watch, confirmed to Jordan News that “we expect, according to the labor policies, that the number of protests will increase and that this decrease will not remain as it is for too long.” 

“Logically, when employees are not given enough (money), and when employees lose their jobs and others are not even satisfied by their jobs, they will want and need to express their anger throughout these protests,” said Awad. “Protest is a legitimate right that will always exist and never fade.”

He urged the government to take action, especially in light of the pandemic, adding that it should do more to balance the differences between the public and private sectors. Most people “prefer to work in the public sector”, Awad said, where they “find their independence,” better working hours, and have guaranteed vacations on public holidays.

The report noted that although protests in general declined over the year, certain new forms of protest appeared. The year 2020 witnessed new protests related to the coronavirus pandemic and the multilevel and long-term businesses closures, which resulted in the loss of more than 140,000 jobs and an increase in the unemployment rate from 19.0 percent during the fourth quarter of 2019 to 24.7 percent in the same period of 2020.

The report also highlighted the need to amend the provisions of the labor law related to the concept of labor conflict and mechanisms for settling labor disputes. It emphasized the need to use new mechanisms and tools to settle labor disputes, in line with the provisions of the International Labor Organization Convention No. 98 related to the right to organize and collective bargaining, which Jordan ratified more than 50 years ago. 

Additionally, the report called to end defense orders, which it claimed weakened work standards in the private sector, and to stop the deduction of the salaries of workers.

The report argued that the government needs to support businesses that were affected by the pandemic and are still affected by the closures.

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