(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Hundreds of pharmacies outside the capital observed a four-hour work stoppage on Sunday to protest a sales tax on pharmaceuticals, despite calls by the Jordan Pharmacists Association (JPhA) to call off the strike.
"All" pharmacies in Mafraq, Ajloun, Karak and Salt decided to ignore the JPhA council and shut their doors from 8:00am until noon, according to association activists.
Moreover, around 90 per cent of pharmacies in Zarqa, Jerash and Madaba also joined the work stoppage, according to Malik Saad Maaitah, an activist from the JPhA's Zarqa branch.
On Saturday, JPhA President Taher Shakhshir issued a statement calling on all pharmacies to refrain from closing their doors on the grounds that an agreement with the government over the controversial law was imminent.
But the JPhA council decision did not sit well with the leaders of some JPhA branches, who decided to act on their own, according to Maaitah.
"We have documented and taken pictures of the pharmacies that shut down in Zarqa, and other cities in the north. I can say almost all pharmacies in seven cities joined the strike," Maaitah told The Jordan Times.
He said pharmacies that abided by the JPhA decision to cancel the strike were limited to Amman, Irbid and Aqaba.
"The issue of the strike unveiled great differences among our leadership. The JPhA council attempted to pressure pharmacies not to strike, but they didn't give in," said Maaitah.
A crisis within the JPhA leadership has been brewing for months, after a special association committee on the sales tax decided to break off negotiations with the government and called for a strike.
The move was met with fierce criticism from Shakhshir, whose bloc controls the JPhA council.
Earlier this month, four members of the committee resigned in protest against the JPhA president's refusal to commit to the planned protest.
The four withdrew their resignations after Shakhshir promised to go ahead with the work stoppage.
According to Shakhshir, a "limited" number of pharmacies observed the strike.
The association president ruled out "disciplinary measures" against pharmacies that closed their doors.
"To ignore our calls is part of freedom of expression. We will not punish anybody because of that," he told The Jordan Times.
Last month, the JPhA launched a campaign to collect one million signatures on a petition demanding an end to the sales tax on pharmaceuticals, which has been in place since 2002.
The government has included 600 out of the Kingdom's 1,800 pharmacies in the Sales Tax Law, with only pharmacies that annually earn JD75,000 or more subject to taxation.
By Mohammad Ben Hussein