Sunday, March 18, 2007

An odd policy shift

Today, Al Ghad has a report on a meeting between Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit and the heads of the professional unions. They discussed how the election law might be changed.

Now, there are a couple of strange things about this story. First, consecutive governments have been emphasizing the need to keep the professional unions out of politics for the last 15 years. There have been many cycles of pushing and pulling on this, but the message that the government has (until now) consistently advocated was that the role of the unions is to take care of the professional needs of its members, and to leave political activities to the political parties. From this perspective, discussing the election law with the unions contradicts this long standing position.

Second, there is nothing that the professional unions have to add to the debate on the election law. The National Agenda Committee discussed the issue at length in late 2005, and ended up without any conclusive resolutions. The Islamists want to go back to the old multiple vote law in order to artificially magnify their presence in the parliament, while the government wants to keep the one vote law in order to preclude that from happening, and to keep the tribal makeup of the parliament. Some compromise formula might be made, but I suspect that every available idea has already been put on the table. The politically affiliated heads of the professional unions will repeat the positions of their respective political parties (mostly the IAF). This discussion is a waste of time, and the purpose of it is unclear.

Thus, the government conceded the political role of the professional unions for no particularly good reason. I find that strange.

9 Comments:

At 7:00 PM, Blogger Mohanned Al-arabiat said...

The unions are controlled by "islamists", they are like a mafia, and honestly they use jordanians from palastenian origins as a tool for taking control, they are against everything the government has to offer..the solution is to have somekind of a polotical party that replace the muslim brotherhood and their control of the unions...To add to that jordanian doesn't like islamists that much, but there is no option to stand in the face of the government...

 
At 11:47 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

I would agree with most of you say. It still doesn't answer why the government would acknowledge their right as unions to engage in politics.

 
At 6:01 PM, Anonymous Markus said...

Whats truely strange is the preconcieved notion that unions cannot engage in politics, Unions the world over are heavily invloved in their countries internal politics, take a look at the ultra-capitalist US workers unions, the meddle BIG-Time in their countries internal workings. Why should a group of people, choosing to assemble legally speak up, work on, or camaign for the betterment of their legal rights and those of their fellow citizens, be stopped from doing so?

 
At 7:38 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Markus: Every country has it's own laws. Anyway, professional unions are different than labor unions. I doubt that the AMA or the bar association would be allowed to spend association money on political party activities.

The crux is that membership in professional unions is not voluntary. This means that people are forced to pay dues to a union which may be engaged in political activities which he/she may not agree with.

 
At 9:48 PM, Blogger Mohanned Al-arabiat said...

I added your blog to my list,is it ok?

 
At 2:50 AM, Blogger Habchawi said...

Kahlf, I think you will find some instances where a professional association -more often a labor union- has interest groups that fund some political campaigns or lobby for certain laws directly touching its members. However, it’s hard to find an association or a union rallying for the war in IRAQ for example......I agree with you they're only another face of the IAF and therefore, they are not adding any thing to the discussion. And I think the government meeting with them is only a PR move.......ya3ni zai ma t7kee hatha bas rafi3 3atib :))))

 
At 9:12 AM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Mohanned: I am enjoying your blog, so I will soon add it to my list as well.

Habchawi: It is a poor PR move, in my view. There might be some wisdom in it that I can't comprehend. We'll see.

 
At 2:13 AM, Anonymous Batir said...

No harm in consulting the unions. In fact the political consultation process should go on to include more stakeholders. However this consultation process should be for a purpose and should be used in the real issue of designing the new law and not spending time for the sake of consultation and giving the image of a transparent and participatory process that may not be more than "sawaleef haseedeh" with the government imposing its opinion just like in the press and parties laws.

 
At 6:43 AM, Anonymous Nijma said...

In theory at least, American unions cannot use union dues to campaign for political candidates. But they CAN form a political action group to do that with separate funds. American unions work for better wages, favorable laws, etc., for the employees they represent. They don't try to influence foreign policy issues, only issues involving work.

I seem to recall in the past when the late King Hussein let the Islamists into the government briefly when there was some unpopular decision to be made. Of course they voted in the only way they could have, and thus shared the responsibility for the unpoplar decision...

 

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