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Cotton Craft Garment: Workers forced out on Strike--Situation is Desperate

September, 19 2007 Share

Cotton Craft Garment Factory
Al Tajamouat Industrial City

 

Urgent-Workers forced out on Strike-Situation is Desperate

 

The long nightmare for the Cotton Craft Workers appeared to finally be at end on June 6, 2007, when the Jordanian Ministry of Labor intervened to negotiate an agreement between Cotton Craft's new owner and the workers, in which factory management pledged to strictly adhere to all Jordanian Labor Laws (see attached agreement). The Ministry of Labor agreement lasted just one month.  In July 2007, the Cotton Craft Factory stopped paying overtime, despite the fact that the workers were forced to work 14 hours a day, including six hours of overtime, seven days a week, with just one day off a month.  When the workers asked for their proper overtime pay, management responded by beating two of the workers and firing them. 

In August, 2007, the situation even got worse.  Only a little more than 60 percent of the workers received any pay at all, some receiving just their base wage of 110 JD per month, and others even less, being paid only 80-90 JD.  Again, no one received any overtime pay whatsoever despite the mandatory 14 hour shifts.  Workers who asked for their legal wages were again threatened.  On top of cheating the workers of the legal wages due to them, workers who had fallen ill due to the grueling hours, would be dragged from their rooms by management, even if it meant breaking the doors down, to forcibly return them to their work stations. 

As the holy month of Ramadan began on Saturday,  September 15-when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk-management insisted that the workers still continue to toil 14 hours a day, of course, without their legal pay.

Management continues to withhold the guest workers' passports.  Workers who continue to ask for their passports are threatened by management that they will be turned over to the police and imprisoned.

With their passports confiscated, 130 Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan men and women remain victims of human trafficking where they are being held under conditions of involuntary servitude. 

Urgent action is necessary-these workers need immediate help.

The long nightmare of being held as slave laborers

More than 2 ½ years ago, 120 Bangladeshi workers-110 men and women-were recruited to work as guest workers at the Cotton Craft Factory in the Al-Dulayl Industrial Park.  (They had to pay a great deal of money to purchase their three-year work contracts). Despite being forced to work 16 to 18 hours a day, the guest workers were not paid a single cent of wages during the entire first year!  After a year, the workers were shifted to a factory called Ferial in the Janica Free Zone area where they worked for 2 ½ months.  From there, the workers were again transferred to the Dawyima Factory in the Al Tajamouat Industrial City.  After toiling here for about one year, the owner-a Pakistani businessman-opened a new garment factory in the same park, again called Cotton Craft, and transferred all 130 Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan workers to his new factory.  Nor did the guest workers ever receive their necessary residency permits, without which they could not venture outside the free trade zone without fear of being stopped by the police and even imprisoned or deported for failure to have their valid documents. 

After a few months, and after years of abuse, the owner was forced to surrender his factory to the Jordanian Ministry of Labor.

Part of the negotiation called for the new owner of the Cotton Craft Factory to pay every worker 2 ¾ months back wages along with social security deductions legally required to be returned to the workers.  The total amount of money due the workers is approximately 460 JD, of which to date only 100 JD has been paid.

It is now going on three years that these workers have been cheated and cruelly abused.  It is long overdue for the Jordanian government and the U.S. apparel companies who sourced production from these factories to make these workers whole again.  They deserve nothing less than every cent of back wages due them, including all their outstanding overtime pay.  These workers should be offered work in a better factory where Jordanian labor law is respected.