(MENAFN - Jordan Times) The possibility of power outages is growing as employees of the Jordanian Electric Power Company (JEPCO) and the Central Electricity Generating Company (CEGCO) continue and escalate their open-ended strikes.
The Electricity Workers Union (EWU), which represents CEGCO employees, said in a statement made available to The Jordan Times Wednesday that the union will stop replacing the night shift workers who are continuing to work, and will halt maintenance and refuelling of generators.
The EWU said these measures were taken after no agreement was reached with CEGCO management.
The employees demand that the company raise their basic salaries, modify the new salary scale system it has been applying since the beginning of this year and cover the full cost of their healthcare insurance.
The company's CEO, Abdul Fattah Nsour, said in a statement received by The Jordan Times that if the strike continues, power outages across the Kingdom are likely.
The employees' strike is jeopardising public safety, he said, stressing that the measures taken by the union placed employees at risk during the past several days.
"The maximum shift an employee can work is 12 hours, but they have been working for more than 90 hours straight. They also barred technical staff from doing maintenance, which could have resulted in several incidents," the statement said.
He indicated that the company had presented an action plan during several meetings with the union before the strike was announced, which included a new system that ties employees' raises to their performance.
Several meetings were held over the past week between the company, the union, and Minister of Labour Maher Wakid to resolve the dispute, but no solution was forthcoming.
Nsour's statement added that when the case was referred to the Labour Court, representatives of the union did not attend the session and so the court date was postponed.
Meanwhile, the president of the JEPCO employees' independent union, Ahmad Meri, said that employees at the company's control centre and emergency offices were joining the strike.
"If any citizen has a problem with electricity, needs an electricity meter [for a new home] or faces a problem that leads to a power outage, he will not find any employee at the emergency offices to help him. From the start, we warned that if the company did not meet our demands, we would take new measures," he told The Jordan Time over the phone yesterday.
JEPCO employees stopped receiving bill payments from subscribers as of Monday.
"On Thursday, we are marching from the site of the strike in Ras Al Ain to the Islamic Scientific College in Jabal Amman where the company's shareholders will be holding a meeting. We are organising this event to send them a message and remind them of our demands," Meri added.
The JEPCO employees are asking for improved financial benefits, including four months bonus salary each year, end of service allowances, better health insurance and transportation services for all workers, Meri said, but the company has refused to negotiate.
JEPCO's director general, Marwan Bushnaq, said the company is prepared to handle the employees' escalatory measures.
"We informed people to pay their bills at post offices and banks. We can also manage to deal with the emergency offices," Bushnaq told The Jordan Times, despite voicing concern over possible power cuts in the coming days.
He stressed that the employees' independent union is illegal.
"Members of this union lost in the elections of the EWU, which is the legal union, and so they decided to form this one," he said.
The JEPCO director said the workers' demands were unreasonable, given that they already receive three months bonus salary, social security coverage, full health insurance coverage and transportation allowances, and will add more pressure on the company's already strained finances.
He also alleged that the strikers had threatened employees who refused to join the move.
In a statement made available to The Jordan Times, the company's management informed employees that their union was not legal and that the company would take legal action against any employee taking part in the strike.
Bushnaq also complained that the government was not doing anything to stop the striking employees from causing power cuts.
"We have not seen any step taken by the labour or interior ministries," he said.
Minister of Energy Qutaiba Abu Qura said that based on his understanding of the situation on Tuesday, electricity would not be disrupted, but he admitted that he was too busy on Wednesday and that he had no updates on the situation by afternoon.
However, "I want to assure people that there is no [power cut] risk so far," he told The Jordan Times over the phone on Wednesday.
CEGCO is the largest power generator in Jordan, with seven power generation complexes nationwide totalling circa 1700MW of installed power capacity from a mixed portfolio of technology and fuel types meeting around 51 per cent of the country's current market share.
JEPCO, meanwhile, is responsible for distributing electrical energy for about 66 per cent of all consumers in the country, according to its website.