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This study sheds light on the Jordanian Labour Movement, one of the oldest and largest social movements in Jordan. It also attempts to answer some of the questions raised by the regression that the movement witnessed, whether on the level of its relationship with its Labour base, or regarding its role and its position in public life.

Although official trade union sources estimate membership in the Labour unions to be between 200,000-250,000, the majority of informed observers consider these numbers exaggerated. They view these as not reflecting true worker membership in the trade unions. More important is that the Jordanian Labour Movement is currently characterized by fragile organization, absence of efficiency, and lack of confidence and solidarity of workers and employees. Due to the subordination of the majority of high ranking union leaderships, their dependency, and the mercenary attitude among many of them, they have lost the respect of the main actors in public life. Examples of these are political parties, professional associations, and other social movements. It is rather more possible to speak of isolation of leadership of the General Federation that is no longer connected through any important relation or joint struggle with civil society and its active organizations.

This study attempts to shed light on the reasons for the decline of the Labour Movement taking into consideration several of the major variables that characterized the last decade. Among these are:

  • The economic crises since the end of the 1980s, and the policies adopted by the government to overcome the decline of economic growth. These translated into the adoption of several programs for structural reform of the economy, privatisation of public sector enterprises, and incorporation into globalisation through the signing of international partnership agreements, joining the World Trade Organization and others. These policies have been adopted to comply with the pressures of the new liberal wave that has overtaken the world since the beginning of the 80s.

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  • Global and regional developments that followed the Cold War, the fall of the USSR, and the emergence of a unipolar world order. These events resulted in fluid ideologies, pragmatism, intensification of globalisation, and the impact on the world economy of the growing contribution of the information technology, which brought forth fast social mobility and social re-engineering. Following this, due consideration is paid to the impact of some regional changes. The most significant of these changes is the eruption of the Second Gulf War, the fall of the Arab political system and the launching of the peace process to put an end to the Arab-Israeli Conflict.

  • Jordan’s entry into a new phase of political openness, acknowledgement of political party pluralism, and resumption of parliamentary life on a competitive electoral basis. These developments led to the release of the state's tight handhold and limitation of its direct interference in the affairs of citizens’ organizations as well as to the raising of the level of freedoms of organization, expression, and publication.

Investigation of the current status of the Jordanian Labour Movement under the impact of these variables will offer the opportunity to learn about the movement in terms of size, sectoral distribution, and general organizational structures. Likewise, it is an opportunity to learn about prevailing directions of trade unions and the leadership of the General Federation, stances and policies of the Labour movement, and the nature of union performance in dealing with current challenges.

Since Labour movement history in the past half-century has left strong imprints on the movement's current situation, this study will begin with a thorough presentation of the historical development of unions till the last ten years.

This study ends with some conclusions related to the present and future situation of the Jordanian Labour Movement. These will stress the need to reform the internal union structure of the Labour movement, and to develop its programs and policies, broadening the membership base, promotion of democracy within its organizations, and facing the challenges of economic globalisation and policies of openness. This is to be achieved through pro-

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grams and policies aiming to protect the rights of workers and enhance their living standards. It is also to be achieved by reconsidering the administrative style of the relation with civil society and the state, as well as activating the Labour movement network of Arab and international relations.

The study is comprised of the following main parts:

  • Historical background: Development phases of the Labour Movement 1953-2000

  • Organizational structure of the Jordanian Labour Movement

  • The Jordanian Labour Movement in confrontation with contemporary challenges

  • Conclusions.

The study also includes a number of annexes and related statistical tables, in addition to a list of the most important references and sources.

Amman, June 2001

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | Januar 2002

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