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UN workers strike in Jordan

AMMAN, May 12 – Nearly 7,000 workers with the UN Palestinian refugee agency in Jordan began a three-day pay strike on Tuesday, closing schools and forcing health centres to work on an emergency-only basis.

"Almost all the workers with UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency), who total around 7,000, began a three-day strike today to demand a seven percent pay increase," Matar Saqr, the agency spokesman in Jordan, told AFP.

The workers, who include teachers and medical staff, had also gone on strike on April 20 and 29 to press their pay claim.

"The agency can’t just decide on increases without carrying out a study of the labour market," said Saqr.

UNRWA looks after the education of 123,000 pupils in 177 schools in Jordan as well as meeting medical needs in 24 health centres.

In total, the humanitarian agency works with 4.2 million Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, of whom 1.8 million are in Jordan.

Last November, UNRWA urged oil-wealthy Gulf monarchies to help fill a budget deficit expected to reach 160 million dollars in 2009.

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