Recent statements by the Syrian regime’s Minister of Labor, Khalaf al-Abdullah, demonstrate the impacts the Syrian war has left on the labor market: "Some employers, who were previously able to provide up to 10 job opportunities, are struggling today to get a job contract of three months in one of state's institutions", the Lebanese al-Akhbar newspaper quoted from Abdullah.
Unofficial unemployment estimates during the war shows a rise from about 14 percent in 2011 to about 58 percent at the end of last year. Although the total workforce in Syria is over 5.8 million workers, the conditions of many industrialists, artisans and workers have collapsed, with many qualified and experienced workers finding themselves on the street.
Despite complaints related to the arbitrary dismissal of workers, head of regime's General Federation of Labors Unions Jamal al-Qaderi admits the discussions held recently to amend Labor Law No. 17 – which regulates the relationship between the worker and the employer in the private sector – failed to cancel the article that allows the dismissal of workers. Nevertheless, Qaderi said, the anticipated amendments "will make the employer hesitate before thinking about the dismissal of any worker, as the new regulations and amendments based on workers' complaints would save workers' rights".
The upcoming legislative amendment may be useful for workers in private sector factories and companies, but the problem remains in the unorganized sector, which includes the largest percentage of the labor force – both before and after four years of war.
In this sector, the options of the worker are limited. The worker can either make a complaint to the Ministry of Labor and reach a compromise with the employer, or resign and look for a job elsewhere.
The obsession of arbitrary dismissal irks private-sector workers, in addition to another obsession among a broad range of public sector workers who wish to change their contract formula from a "daily laborers" system to a "temporary annual contract" system, or from temporary employment to permanent employment.
According to Qaderi: "The government has finally issued a resolution that allows changing the contracts of workers from daily to annual contracts", which will provide them all the same benefits as permanent workers. "It began with nearly 900 workers in the Tartous Cement plant. The Labor Union was commissioned to collaborate with government agencies to determine the number of daily workers in all Syrian public institutions".
The Minister of Labor mentioned the ministry "has worked hard in order to obtain government approval for the proposal related to extending the renewable annual contracts of workers for another year".
The Director of the Labor Force Directorate in the Ministry of Labor, Razan al-Omari, said: "the total number of employees who resigned between 2011 and 2014 has reached 84,904 workers".
According to a 2014 report of the General Federation of Labor Unions, there are cases where the worker was dismissed without any investigation, while in some other cases, workers are unaware of the reasons behind their dismissal, with some of them not being paid their legal dues.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer