AMMAN - Thousands of staff of the cash-strapped UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in Jordan held a one-day strike on Monday to demand pay rises to meet rising living costs in the kingdom.
"The majority of UNRWA's 7,000 employees in Jordan went on strike today, affecting the agency's educational and health services," agency spokesman Matar Saqr told AFP.
They are pushing for a second rise of around 50 dinars (more than 70 dollars) a month, Saqr said.
"UNRWA employees have already received increases of between 45 to 50 dinars at the beginning of this year, but the workers feel that they need another raise to meet the current high living costs," he said.
They plan to go on indefinite strike from April 14 if their demands are not met, he added.
"As a humanitarian agency, UNRWA believes that going on strike is not a solution."
The UN agency provides education to 123,000 pupils at 177 schools in Jordan, as well as health services at 24 centres, Saqr said.
In all, UNRWA cares for some 4.2 million Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, around 1.8 million of them in Jordan, but the agency faces a 100 million dollar funding gap in its 2008 budget of 542 million dollars.
Prices in Jordan have risen sharply this year, with the cost of domestic fuel up by 76.1 percent since January and electricity prices up by as much as 38 percent.
Food prices have also risen and the International Monetary Fund projects inflation of nine percent in 2008, up from 5.4 percent last year.