Jordan’s government said on Sunday it has reached a pay deal with the teachers union to end a one-month strike, the country’s longest public sector strike that disrupted schooling for more than 1.5 million students.
The deal came after the strike threatened a deepening political crisis when the government last week began legal steps against the unions after they rejected pay hikes they said were “bread crumbs” and the government said it could not afford to give more.
The pay deal will see salaries rise by 35% to 60% from next year. It comes after weeks of deadlock with the government intransigent over meeting an original 50% pay rise demanded by the unions that it said would strain the heavily indebted country’s finances.
Officials said King Abdullah had ordered the government to reach the hefty wage deal which tests the ability of Prime Minister Omar al Razzaz to stay on track in implementing tough fiscal reforms backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) aimed at reducing a record $40 billion public debt.
The government fears new pay demands by other public sector employees, including doctors, and pension increases for retired soldiers would wreck efforts to restore fiscal prudence needed for a sustained economic recovery.
Dozens of activists from the powerful teachers union, whose members succeeded in forcing the government to agree to substantial pay hikes after a four-week standoff, celebrated in front of their headquarters in Amman.
“The teachers got their demands,” said Nasser Al Nawasrah, deputy head of the Jordanian Teachers Syndicate. He called on his organisation’s 100,000 members to immediately resume teaching pupils in around 4,000 state schools that had been affected by the strike.
Tens of thousands of pupils headed to state school across the country on Sunday for the first time since Sept. 5. The unions announced the strike after the authorities used tear gas to disperse thousands of teachers who had congregated to press for the wage demands near government headquarters.
Many parents had kept their children at home out of solidarity with the striking teachers.