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This survey aims to show that the Jordanian Labour Movement suffers currently from serious deterioration in its internal affairs. This is expressed by the absence of democratic traditions, the spread of domination and sectarian conflicts, and the negligence of duties of organizing the Labour class and defending their rights and vital interests. This is occurring while the suffering of this class is aggravated by unemployment, wage decline, competition by foreign Labour, and processes of severance and dismissal which may affect tens of thousands of workers as a result of restructuring and privatisation or other economic re-organization measures.

At a time when Jordan is heading towards adopting policies of economic reform, openness and investment promotion, the absence of an organized Labour union movement that enjoys legitimacy and transparency represents a wide gap in the course of this correctional transformation. Such an absence harms Jordan’s image and deprives it of a reliable tool for change that includes a large class of workers. These workers support should be sought in order to help promote the success of reform policies and to avoid explosions due to the incapacity of the leadership of the General Federation of Trade Labour Unions to represent workers' interests and consequently its incapability of earning their support.

A substantial reform within the structures of the Jordanian Labour Movement requires entwining the efforts of many bodies, including government, political parties and union leaderships. The entwining is necessary in order to reclaim the reputation of the Labour movement and to qualify it to become an effective partner in rendering successful economic reform policies and crystallizing social and national consensus.

The reform of the union Labour movement depends principally on the union forces themselves, and on the efforts they could exert within the framework of Labour trade unions. However, this requires tangible measures from the government, support and succour from political forces, civil society, intellectuals, and academics, in addition to the support that it could

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acquire from the Arab and foreign union organizations and other related international bodies.

In general, the accomplishment of the following tasks is considered the cornerstone in the desired reform of the Jordanian Labour Movement institutions:

1. Development of the political and legal environment regulating work relations. This requires that the government abandon its security perception of trade unions as a possible source of threat to economic and political stability and industrial relations.

This also requires amending and developing Labour legislation to become consistent with international agreements and conventions concerned with Labour rights and civic, economic and social rights. This furthermore requires guaranteeing the freedoms of organizing and unionising, without restriction or condition, and dealing with the Labour movement, in general, as a socio-economic partner in the development process.

2. Development of the organizational structure of the Labour Movement, expansion of its membership base, and promotion of participation mechanism and of union practice therein. To translate this into fact requires abandoning the enforcement of a unified constitution for trade unions, as the ordinance of a constitution for a trade union is a right of its general assembly solely, and is not to be imposed on it externally.

Likewise, it requires development of the basic charter of the Federation, activation of the authorities of the General Convention and central council, and co-ordination of their periodic convening. It also requires limiting the centralization of authority in the hands of the Executive Committee, development of its working mechanisms, enhancement of its function by technical and legal expertise, and emphasis on specialization for follow-up and improvement of performance quality.

Emphasis should be placed on targeting expansion of trade union membership. The expansion is to include sectors deprived of union organization and to open the door for establishment of new Labour trade unions for sectors

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without unions to represent them in an active manner. Emphasis should also be placed on the activation of election and nomination mechanisms to end the phenomenon of fictitious trade unions and paper membership in the Labour Movement. Mechanisms to achieve transparency, honesty, monitoring, alternation in leadership positions, and base participation must be provided. Improving the representation of youth and women in union committees should be targeted. Trade union decentralization should be encouraged. Expansion outside the capital, and increasing communication and leadership capabilities of trade unions through opening their premises to intellectual, cultural and social activities for members should also be encouraged. Beside that, there is a need to create a separate supervisory entity emanating from the General Conference, independent from the Executive Committee of the Federation. Such an entity’s objectives would be to receive complaints and grievances, and to judge these. Also among its duties would be to insure the correctness of the financial statements of the Federation and trade unions and of membership records and to guarantee the freedom of electing and nominating.

3. Reconciliation within the union movement, improving its image in society and supporting its role in public life. There is need for meetings between the different union currents represented inside and outside of the trade unions leadership including ex-chairmen and ex-leaders of the Federations. These meetings are necessary in order to review the past phase and to achieve a historic reconciliation. When achieved, it will open the doors for the purification of internal climates and put an end to the climates of dispute, divisions, and personal and sectarian conflicts.

Improving the image of the Federation should become an uppermost aim for a Labour movement tied to divisions, performance decline, and even corruption. Achieving union consent, acknowledging union pluralism and activation of democratic electoral mechanisms may contribute to supporting the credibility and legitimacy of the union leadership and strengthening its role in public life.

The democratisation of the Federation and the enhancement of its image will reinforce the negotiation capabilities of the Labour movement.

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Beside democratisation, the Labour movement is required to professionalize its performance, and to support it with strong bases of science, expertise, and of technical and communicative skills. This means that the organizations of the Federation should rely on research and studies centres, and expert legal and consultation houses, and should reinforce their information and communication capabilities with the Federation base, social and political activists, parliament, and decision-makers in the government.

The General Federation has to open itself to civil society, non-government organizations, political parties, and academic milieus. It has to build pressure and influence lobbies in national dialogue about public policies. This is to be achieved through organizing seminars and discussions, and through co-operating with various civic and public institutions. The co-operation will crystallize a public opinion that supports Labour positions on major issues (i.e. amendment of Social Security Law, development of Labour law, restriction of migrant Labour competition, fixing of a minimum wage limit, and attention to the social impact of economic policies related to privatisation, restructuring, free trade agreements, and partnership with countries of the North).

4. Development of union co-operation on both the regional and the international levels, to confront globalisation and the new challenges of the world economy. Despite the participation of Labour trade unions, each separately, and the General Federation in the membership of tens of Arab or international confederations, the contribution of the Jordanian Labour Movement in Arab and international conventions is weak and marginal. Their participation is not based on referential frameworks regulating and guiding the positions of the General Federation, its policies and foreign relations.

This is because the representation of the General Federation in Arab and international conventions is not based on the rules of specialization, professionalism, and follow up. Instead, representation is based on leadership elements sharing and rotating travel and participation opportunities in regional and international conferences and meetings. The delegation of union leaders to participate in a conference is not viewed as a mission and duty as much as it takes the form of a grant and "bribe" for personal benefits.

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To build active external relations of co-operation for the General Federation and all the trade unions, it is imperative to activate and rebuild circles for Arab and foreign relations in the Federation. It is imperative to provide opportunities for gaining knowledge accumulation to leaders charged with the management of foreign relations of the Federation. It is also imperative to build a technical secretariat that establishes permanent relations with other federations, and participates in the deliberations and preparations of international and Arab meetings and conferences. The secretariat is also to correlate the positions of the Federation to other federations in the Arab world and in countries of the South, and to endeavour to acquire allies in trade unions of countries of the North. It is also to develop basis for a Labour partnership and strategies for cooperation in the social and Labour fields, as this is needed to give a humanitarian character to globalisation and consideration to the interests of the working classes and their social and economic rights in international agreements.

Building foreign relations on the basis of specialization, professionalism, and knowledge accumulation will enable Jordanian union organizations to build their positions and alliances on a strong foundation of awareness and follow-up of international and regional variables and of Jordanian Labour interests in a fast changing world.

5. Reviving and activating Labour culture institutes in order to create union cadres and to train them in leadership and communication skills. The responsibility for Labour cultural institutes was transferred many years ago from the Ministry of Labour to the General Federation of Labour Trade Unions. This transfer has buried the Labour culture institutes and halted the process of building, training and qualifying of union cadres.

The necessity of vitalizing and activating the institutions and frameworks of Labour culture stems from the need for rejuvenation and expansion of the frameworks of the Labour union movement, to create a new generation of youthful union leaderships of knowledge and honesty.

This necessity also stems from the need to build a new or renewable Labour culture that takes into consideration the lessons and experiences earned from the recent past, as Labour culture should emanate from the realities of

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the era, and the characteristics of the world economy in its current globalised form. It should also emanate from the evolution of new sectors in the New Economy based on information and communication technology, as well as from the appearance of the Information Society.

The philosophy of Labour culture, which the General Federation of Trade Unions should attempt to crystallize, is the creation of union cadres that are aware of the realities of the world economy and of the characteristics of the era and its impact on hired Labour, in addition to being aware of the nature of challenges faced by the Jordanian economy and the policies targeting the advance of its productive efficiency and competitive capabilities.

In this general context, one of the missions of Labour culture is to provide trainees with communication expertise in order to expand the basis of trade unions at worksites. Another mission is to provide trainees with leadership skills, especially negotiation skills with employers. The basic background is that negotiation and compromise solutions, not Labour strikes, are the approach that should be adopted towards industrial relations as a primary alternative for trade unions.

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

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