With the strike of the Teachers’ Union now in its third consecutive week, and in the absence of any signs of a breakthrough, and as students continue to miss school, there is a renewed legal and constitutional debate over the right of teachers to strike.
Law experts say the strike for labor rights is a right guaranteed by the law. But there is a “flaw” in the law that has led some to doubt whether the teachers have the right to implement that clause or not.
According to the law, a strike is defined as the collective suspension of employees of any institution temporarily, with the goal of pressuring management to fold to the interests of the employees. Further, according to certain interpretations of the law, the strike is guaranteed by Article 16 of the Jordanian Constitution.
Chairman of the House of Workers Hamada Abu Najma asserts that the strike is guaranteed by the Constitution and international laws ratified by the Jordanian government as long as the strike is carried out in accordance with the law. Abu Najma notes that exercising this right does no harm to the interests of the public and that the state is required to establish guidelines for striking. Any attempt to prevent those strikes, Abu Najma says, runs counter to the fundamental rights of the workers.
The issue of the teachers’ strike, Abu Najma says, stems from the lack of clarity of the legislation and procedures governing the rights of workers to strike in the public sector, in particular. This lack of clarity has escalated the teachers’ strike to the current levels.
Article 8(D) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Jordan ratified, guarantees the right to strike as long as it is exercised in accordance with the laws of the concerned country.
Labor law gives the right to strike to employees working in the private sector, as stipulated in Article 135 of the law, as long as the employer is given notice at least 14 days before the start of the strike.
The Civil Service Bureau, which overseas public sector employees, says that public servants, especially those in a number of service sectors including compulsory education, may not strike since striking hurts services provided to citizens and the state. That being said, public employees do have the right to express their opinions and can appeal to the department in which he or she works.
Constitutional expert Laith Nasraween notes that a number of regulations have clear contradictions, such as those pertaining to the civil service system and the Teachers’ Association Act. Constitutional provisions, he says, guarantee the right to strike and gather peacefully to achieve labor rights, meaning that it is, in fact, legal for teachers to strike.
Former Constitutional judge Ahmed Tbishat stresses that teachers have the right to express their opinion and appeal to management with various demands, but says at the same time they can’t disrupt compulsory education.
Tbishat points to the negative effects of the strike felt by students, who he says are being used as pawns to achieve the demands of the Teachers' Union with the Ministry of Education.
Abu Najma said it is right not to stop educating students completely — besides for high school students since they are at a sensitive age — but that the strike was a legitimate way to pressure the government to hear the teachers’ demands.
During her meeting with a number of journalists, Minister of State for Media Affairs Spokesperson Jumana Ghanimat announced that there were many complaints made by parents calling for the return of their children to school and the suspension of the strike.
That being said, the Teachers’ Union considers it their right to strike and is emphasizing compensation for the lessons students have missed during the strike.
Translation to English by Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff