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UNRWA Strike Ends in Jordan
A Palestinian refugee boy plays football in front of a school run by UNRWA on January 18, 2018 at al-Baqa'a refugee camp, about 12 miles north of Amman, Jordan. (KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP via Getty Images)

UNRWA Strike Ends in Jordan

The one-day sector-wide strike of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees ended with a monthly pay increase of up to $141.

Late Sunday afternoon, the Jordanian branch of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) announced that it had reached an agreement ending the one-day strike of nearly 7,000 employees protesting what they perceived to be low pay. From what is known of the agreement, primary school teachers will receive a monthly raise of up to 100 Jordanian dinars ($141), while high school teachers will get about $70 more per month. The increase for those in non-education fields is still unknown.

The strike impacted approximately 2.1 million refugees. More than 40% of Palestinian refugees live in Jordan.

“There is an agreement and the strike is over,” Sami Mshasha, the director of communications and Arabic language spokesperson for UNRWA, told The Media Line.

Earlier today, Mshasha explained that UNRWA Jordan employees had rejected an offer to raise salaries by 70 Jordanian dinars ($99) per month and to conduct a salary survey that would assess comparable earnings in the region. UNRWA employees wanted a monthly increase of approximately $141 immediately, across the board.

“We could not [satisfy their demands] for an across the board increase because of our financial situation and economic deficit,” Mshasha said.

The Trump Administration cut off funding to UNRWA in 2018 and the organization has since struggled to fill the $300 million hole the US left in its budget, according to US think tank The Brookings Institution. Compounding matters was the July 2019 decision by Switzerland and the Netherlands to temporarily cease UNRWA funding amid corruption charges. Each of the two countries donates approximately $20 million to UNRWA annually.

The strike falls on the backdrop of a Jordanian public sector strike, including a monthlong teachers strike, which ended in early October with an employee pay hike.

A Jordanian UNRWA teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Media Line, “I am so happy that it is over: The refugees need UNRWA for education and health care and a reduction of UNRWA services would affect many refugee children. … The high cost of living in Jordan also affects UNRWA staff members.”

UNRWA Jordan employees previously went on a three-day strike in May 2009. There was an UNRWA strike in Gaza last September over the implementation of staff layoffs.

UNRWA Jordan is responsible for the education of Palestinian children outside of refugee camps, in addition to the approximately 171 schools maintained within the camps, which educate more than 121,000 pupils. UNRWA Jordan also runs 26 primary care health centers, 14 spaces for women-only courses, and two job training facilities.

Although many Palestinian refugees have Jordanian citizenship, they still face discrimination within Jordanian society. The children of noncitizen refugees are not permitted to attend Jordanian schools.

The strike did not impact UNRWA operations in other regions where the agency operates, including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, Syria and Lebanon.

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