What Jordanian Unions Have Been Up To Lately

In the past few days, trade and professional unions have been doing a great deal of work. First, they denounced the reprinting of the cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) in a Danish newspaper, which is an act that conjures an overwhelming sense of deja vu, calling on the government to sever economic ties with Denmark in retaliation. Second, they’ve lashed out at the Ministry of Health for issuing invitations to Jordanian doctors to attend a training course in Israel, urging the doctors to reject the offer. Third, they’ve lashed out against Christian missionaries who were caught preaching to Muslims and subsequently deported, calling it an agenda that “opposes the political and social stability of the country”. Fourth, they organized a demonstration in solidarity with Gaza, calling on the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador.

By definition, a trade union is an organization of workers that seeks to address, through the science of power in numbers and the art of collective bargaining, major issues that concern its members. Fair wages, labor laws and regulations, workplace safety, complaint and conflict management, defending worker rights and if worse comes to worst, organizing strikes and sit downs.

In a country where worker rights are vague and in a year where inflation is unprecedented, isn’t it time for unions to do what they were created to do? It seems the separation of political power from unions and associations in Jordan has had an effect that has lasted for nearly three years. Perhaps a new generation of socialist-thinking-worker-minded professionals need to take over from the generation of old men who just won’t let go of go-nowhere politics. The people are in need of a Gompers or a Hoffa. That collective spirit needs to emerge, and urgently.

Because in the coming months and years, the Jordanian people will really need someone who truly represents them and defends their rights in the face of the government’s potentially catastrophic economic policies.

But that’s just my two piasters.


  • Unfortunatly unions and politics are intertwined from the begining of their history, and it will be forever.
    As a simple example : type “unions obama” in google search and take a look.
    Im not saying that they should, im just stating the obvious.

  • markus: you make a valid point however we should make a differentiation here. american unions are historically representative of their members on a worker-rights level, their involvement in US politics comes from their natural ability to endorse parties which have platforms and agendas running parallel to their own goals. The Democratic party and the teacher’s unions are an example of that. In that sense, they become entwined.

    On our end, there is little history of activism on behalf of workers and rather a huge reliance on political, usually foreign, issues that have nothing to do with their members. ironically, that has to do with the history of banned political parties and the decision to move the debate/issues into the hands of unions and associations.

  • The unions have done a good job in many instances, but often undervalued. What we really need are new-fresh policies which are efficient and effective , We need radical and fundamental change.
    We still deny that we are facing economic crisis, what jordan needs is combined intellectual and socio-political movement that can effectively meet the upcoming challenges

  • Very well said!

    Those unions have inherited the mentality of adding more constraints and punishment to workers rather than helping improving their conditions.

    We are in desperate need for people to defend our rights. Can we do anything about that?

  • you are right Naseem.
    They should be fully dedicated for the professions they represent. Political actions shall be limited to run the union, tax, social security, work laws…etc. Other politics fans shall enroll in political parties.

  • انا لا اري عيب او خطاء عندما تتدخل نقابه المهندسين أو ايا نقابه في الشؤون السياسيه ،علي سبيل المثال ،النقابه التي أنتمي لها في الولايات لمتحده وعددأعضائها ما يقارب 15000 عضو مغموسين من راسهم ال أساسهم في السياسه الخارجيه للولايات المتحده،،السياسه الداخليه والخارجيه ليست حكرأ علي أحد لا بلعكس هي أمانه في رقبه كل أنسان غيور علي بلده ويتمني الخير لشعبه

  • the thing is our unions is currently mostly by islamists and the islamists in jordan are mostly run by pro Hamas wing or or the eagles as they call them in the press thats why as soon as you enter the union complex um shmeisani you’ll see a big poster of al rantisi martyr not yasser arafat’s poster nor late king hussein which makes you feel you’re entering a hamas organization in jordan
    and because hamas is in palestine for sur the policies of the unions are going to be foreign not local
    plz i don’t anyone to think that im taking position against palestine pr palestinians but that is the truth about the unions

  • ok let’s say that the jordanian unions decided to abandon anything related to politics and focus solely on work issues ..
    how much sway or influence do they have in improving the conditions of the people represent .. i mean could they organize a strike for example .. i don’t think so ..

  • Nas,
    I dont disagree with you on the mediocrity of Jordanian Labor unions, in everything from members services and benifits to foreign politics.
    But are you telling me that, issues such as Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon are “foreign” to us?

  • Markus: on the contrary. what i’m saying is that issues such as Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon and even Darfur, should be foreign to unions.

    Ammar: “the thing is our unions is currently mostly by islamists and the islamists in jordan are mostly run by pro Hamas wing ” I think this is a misleading statement, or at the very least a hasty generalization.

    mo: considering their mere size they have a major sway when it comes to representing worker issues. heck, if they have some sway with foreign policy where all their efforts seem to be concentrated, then they’re likely to have it with domestic public policy, or at the very least rights. as for organized strikes. unions have to get licenses in order to stage these sort of events, just like the IAF gets a license to stage a demonstration every few Fridays. however, since both you and i are smart enough to know that they likelihood of them being granted such a licence is slim, we would have to pay heed to some history, which suggests that the strongest unions, and the most powerful socialist forces, have never emerged with the licensing of the government. in most cases, they’ve developed despite it. that’s where their power lies.

  • I’m not sure we deserve better than this, or that unions are acting against the will of their members. They’re all elected by members, and the turnout in elections for unions is better than that of the Jordanian Parliament.

  • ya i agree with u but i just dont see them taking on the govt like that .. so they will just continue to condemn israel and denmark to distract ppl from the fact that they are too scared to take any action regarding real labor issues because they lack the balls

  • hareega: members of some unions do get some benefits. but if unions could prove themselves as a natural lobbeying entity in the country, they could be all the more powerful.

    mo: that about sums it up on the “what is” angle. my post was more about “what should be”

Your Two Piasters: