The Gov’t and the Teachers

By Fahed Khitan

تم نشره في Tue 16 May / May 2017. 12:00 AM
  • Fahed Khitan

The pace and intensity of demands made by labour unions and civil associations is usually determined by the prevailing economic conditions and the living standards of social groups most affected by public policy.

Given the economic circumstances Jordan is going through, avoiding this is more or less out of the question.

Naturally, people seek to improve their situation to cope with the living burden.

It is difficult to ignore their voices, and it is unacceptable to silence them. Meanwhile, it is also impossible to respond to all of their demands.

In order to maintain the peace and the flow of public affairs, everybody’s required to engage in a dialogue to arrive at mutually beneficial results.

About a week ago, the teachers' union threatened to organize a general strike to advance a bundle of demands.

In this regard, it was important for the authorities to move proactively, in order to avoid dangerous escalation of a general strike.

Prime Minister Hani Mulqi went beyond the traditional official communication dynamic, and asked to personally and immediately meet with the president and members of the teachers' association.

In other, similar cases, escalations in popular movements, sit-ins, and strikes are often driven by negligence, as well as delays in establishment of dialogue and communication.

Officials would usually neglect such movements.

Previous failures to communicate; to effectively respond to the pulse of the populace, were costly.

Typically, dismantling escalated strikes cost much more than it would if the respective authorities and decision makers were more tentative to the demands.

This is next to all the repercussions of a situation gone wrong, let alone the security implications of managing a crisis in the field.

The meeting between the Premier and the Teachers Association seemed very promising.

Mulqi’s immediate response to some of the demands, has immensely helped the situation.

His promise, too, to speed up the government’s response to the Associations’ demand, and deal with them seriously, responsibly, and effectively, within the means available, certainly has helped.

So far, the Association has not delivered a response to the government’s appeals. But since they have agreed to engage in an open dialogue with the government, it is only natural that they commit to the mechanism of dialogue.

Accordingly, it is reasonable for the Association to compromise, more or less, to meet at least the most vital of their demands, minimally.

All in all, the government’s timely response may have helped to effectively contain what could have been an otherwise terrible situation.

The point is that this approach may be turned into a tradition, a custom for such situations.

Perhaps this may help advance and devote the language of dialogue and negotiation instead of confrontation on the streets, which may be exploited by others with unsolicited agendas.

The Teachers Association’s Board has the sensibility to deal with this wisely.

Undoubtedly, the Association’s aim is to achieve legitimate demands for the teachers. Escalation, per se, is not the goal of the Association.

On their part, the Government is well aware of that.

More so, the government knows that if the Premier’s promises are not met, it will lose all its credibility, and with it, the wiggle room afforded by dialogue to avoid extreme situations!

During my visit with colleagues to International Labour Organization’s headquarters in Geneva a few days ago, we heard a senior official with the ILO praise Jordan's success in conducting a productive negotiation with various parties on raising minimum wage, and actually arriving at an agreement.

We should stick to this approach; settle our differences with dialogue and communication, to cultivate consensus on the basics of mutual benefit.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.