RD Shell employees in Jordan protest ‘surprise lay-offs’ at oil shale operation

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Oil shale company employees protest ‘surprise lay-offs’



AMMAN — A number of Jordan Oil Shale Company (JOSCO) employees gathered outside its premises in Amman on Tuesday to protest against a decision to lay them off.

Sufian Nimri, one of the employees that were laid off and the protesters’ spokesperson, said JOSCO took the decision on Sunday.

“We went to the company to work and they told us we are fired,” he told The Jordan Times over the phone.

Nimri said the JOSCO management held “five-minute meetings” with each employee on Monday and handed them a piece of paper reading: “We regret to inform you that the company has decided to terminate your services starting from [March 9, 2015]”.

“It is really strange. We don’t know why they chose to lay us off in particular,” he added.

The management has laid off 82 out of its 200 employees, according to Labour Ministry Secretary General Hamadah Abu Nijmeh, who said the decision is illegal.

Abu Nijmeh noted that under the law, any company that wishes to lay off a substantial number of its employees has to do so through a tripartite committee that consists of representatives from the government, employees and the management.

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“After the committee takes a decision, the company has to act accordingly. The decision can be appealed,” he added.

“Though the company decided to compensate its employees, the decision to lay them off is illegal because the management did not send them a notice ahead of time,” Abu Nijmeh said.

He noted that the company has decided to reconsider its move and a meeting will be held on Thursday bringing together all involved parties.

“The employees decided to suspend their protest until then.”

Wajeeh Breizat, one of the employees who lost his job, said JOSCO is doing well and there is no reason for the lay-offs.

“We have been fired in an uncivilised manner. They first banned us from entering the company and later prohibited us from using its facilities,” he added.

Fayez Shrouf, another protester, said representatives from the management asked them to sign a piece of paper saying they had received a month’s notice, which also listed several benefits such as half a month’s salary for each year of service and compensation for the leave they did not take.

“This is not enough and we demand either fair compensation or that we get our jobs back.”

A spokesperson from Shell, which owns JOSCO, said the company has “decommissioned one drilling rig as it transitions from a drilling phase to a piloting stage of operations”.

“We would like to reiterate that our operations in Jordan are continuing as normal. Shell regularly conducts portfolio reviews at a global and local level — the decision to decommission one rig is based on current project requirements,” the spokesman added, noting that WTS Energy Jordan employs the majority of onsite JOSCO staff.

WTS Energy Jordan was not available for comment.