“Don’t talk to me about a woman who wets herself, you should have had the conversation between me and you and not on air” this was the way Samer Abdel Hadi the general director of a private hospital spoke on April 7th about one of his nurses. The obscene language was said when an anchor on radio al Balad in the Jordanian capital asked him about the stoppage of the March salaries for those working at his hospital.
The radio anchor, Rawan Jayyousi, was screamed at in the interview that was also live broadcast on Facebook. The hospital director shouted at the reporter “this is a radio of demolition, not the town radio, it is destruction.” The clip broadcast on social media garnered over 300 thousand views and a huge barrage of the Jordanian public ‘s criticism. People complained about the way personal wealth has tried to overwhelm worker’s rights during the government restrictions in its efforts to confront the coronavirus.
Not the first incident
This is not the first incident in which business owners have attempted to intimidate workers. On April 5th the head of the private school owners’ union Munther Sorani shouted down against a female school teacher who criticized private schools for not paying salaries calling her a representative of a “spiteful class.”
Economic sectors suffer from major losses after the Jordanian government took drastic decisions that stopped all productive sectors from operating. The stoppage came as around the clock curfew and shop closure were ordered March 20th.
There are no official statistics on the exact numbers of the economic loss but Fahmi Katout estimates in an interview with ammannet that the losses to the national economy for the one-month stoppage of about 65% can be as high as 1.5 or 1.7 billion JOD.
A study by the Jordan University Strategic Studies Center found that 67% of business owns are considering letting go of some of their employees if the stoppage due to the coronavirus continues for a long time.
The study also showed that 44% of private-sector workers have not received their salaries for March. 36% of them had to borrow from family and friends to manage their living needs.
These losses have led many in the private sector in Jordan to stop the salaries and let go of their employees. Etaf Roudan manager of Radio Al Balad told ammannet that “after the interview with the hospital director, and the reaction on social media, we have received tens of complaints of workers who were fired or have not received their salaries. “the interview with the hospital director was not a surprise. Our producer had contacted him a day earlier as is our role to give a voice to the marginalized people among them workers. At the same time, we have a responsibility of giving the other side a chance to present their point of view and this is what we tried to do with the hospital director.
“We expected that he would use the air time to explain his position in light of the government clear policy that all private-sector employers were obliged to pay the salaries to their staff and not to let go of anyone during these difficult times.”
The hospital defended itself in a message sent to the management of radio al Balad, the hospital director said that there is “great injustice in the way accusations were leveled against the hospitals despite the fact the Abdel Hadi Hospital will not short change any of its employees but on the contrary will seek to guarantees their rights despite these difficult and surprising times to all. We all embrace our country and defend our national institutions.”
This response didn’t stop human rights organizations such as the Sisterhood is Global Institute, the Journalist’s Syndicate, the Center for the defense of Journalists, and the Nurses Union from criticizing the foul language used against the media and the nurses. The head of the Jordanian Nurses Union, Khaled Rababa’a said “after the elapse of the 48 hours warning we had given to the director to make a genuine apology we have asked our legal advisor to sue the hospital director and we have placed the hospital o the black list of locations that are unfit for the work of medical staff.”
Ahmad Awad director of the Worker’s Monitoring Center told ammannet “worker’s violations that are taking place behind the scene and then are denied by business owners are not taking place in publicly and in the media. What the head of the private school’s union on Al Mamlaka TV a few days ago and what the owner of a private hospital on Radio al Balad are examples of the challenges to Jordanian laws and the recent defense orders.
In an attempt to reassure workers in the private sector, the Jordanian government issued defense order no 6 which according to Prime Minister Omar Razzaz “aims to protect workers in all sectors as the government are slowly allowing some sectors to slowly return to work.”
The summary of the defense order specifies that “workers have a right to receive their entire March salary but if a company is permitted to continue work in April, it is also obliged to pay full salaries. However, if a company or institutions has little work such as tourism energy companies it can work out with the agreement of the staff to pay 70% so long as it is not below the minimum wage. Other companies that can’t survive, the government pledged to try and help them out.