Alerts

Progress and Failures: Update on Human Trafficking in Jordan

July, 17 2006 Share

There continue to be concrete and widespread cases of factory improvements on the ground in Jordan, but there have also been setbacks and many factories continue to violate both Jordanian law and core internationally recognized worker rights standards. 

Table of Contents:

 A. The Positive

  1. Several abusive factories closed, workers relocated
  2. Significant improvements at the Sari International factory
  3. Maintrend Factory
  4. Bangladesh Embassy in Jordan responds

B. The Not-So-Positive

  1. United Garments

C. Failures

  1. Caliber Garment
  2. Horizon Clothing Factory
  3. The workers name abusive factories that continue to violate rights with impunity
  4. Workers forcibly deported
  5. Jordan remains in violation of the core International Labor Organization's standard with regard to the right to organize

D. A Concrete, Positive Proposal to Factory to Recognize and Reward Jordan's Good Factories

E. Update on the Western Factory

 

 

A. The Positive

1) Several abusive subcontract factories have been shut down and the workers relocated to better factories

As has been reported in the press and by the Ministry of Labor in Jordan, several very abusive subcontract export garment factories have been shut down, and a total of 623 foreign guest workers relocated to better factories.

 Factories Closed  Number of Workers  Transfer to Better Factory

 Saidan

 85 workers  Classic Fashions
 Al Nahat  152 workers  EAM Maliban
 Panorama Resources  40 workers  Mediterranean
 Najh Technology  90 workers  Advanced
 Al Sharaf  85 workers  El Zay
 Peace Gates  86 workers  Jordache
 Al Jabiri  85 workers  Jordan Sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the violent and explosive conditions they faced at Al Nahat, the relocated workers report they are "very happy now" to be in one of Jordan's best factories, EAM Maliban.  The same is true of the Al Sharaf workers, who are glad to be at another of Jordan's best factories, El Zay.

The government shut down the Al Jabiri factory and relocated the workers to a better factory just as the situation was spiraling out of control.  Al Jabiri, a subcontract plant, is owned by a Jordanian, Mr. Mohammad Orabi.  The standard shift was 14 to 16 hours a day, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. or 12:00 midnight, seven days a week.  Workers were paid below the legal minimum wage and shortchanged on their overtime pay.  When the workers asked for their legal rights, the owner stopped supplying food, cut the water supply to the workers' dorms and threatened to forcibly deport any worker continuing to speak about their legal rights.  The Ministry of Labor shut the factory down just in time.

In the cases of both Al Nahat and Saidan, the workers have yet to receive any of the back wages owed them.  We will return to this later on.

 

2.) Significant improvements at the Sari International factory in Irbid:

There have been many significant improvements at the Sari International factory in Irbid, where the workers report working no more than 10 ½ hours a day, from 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.-eight regular hours from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with a half hour off for lunch and two hours of overtime, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.  The workers receive three or four days off a month and are paid correctly and on time via bank transfer no later than the 5th or 7 th of the following month.  Factory conditions and respect for workers' rights have improved.  Most of the workers have had their passports returned and have also been provided with their necessary residency documents.  The workers now classify Sari International as a "good factory."

 

3.) Maintrend Factory-further improvements:

The Maintrend factory in the Al Tajamouat Industrial City continues to improve.  In past updates we reported that the vast majority of workers have had their passports returned and also received their residency permits.  Workers now get every Friday off as their weekly holiday.  Workers are paid the legal minimum wage-95 JD (Jordanian Dinar) or $134.28 U.S. a month-for the regular 48-hour workweek.  A little over a week ago, Maintrend cut back its daily shift, closing the factory at 6:30 p.m. rather than 10:00 p.m., thus reducing the shift from 14 ½ hours to 11 hours.  Factory bathrooms are now clean and the workers have access to safe filtered drinking water.  Dorm conditions and the workers' food remain adequate.   There remains some confusion over whether or not the workers are earning the correct overtime premium.  Once this issue is resolved, the workers say Maintrend should certainly be classified as a "good factory."

In general, across the Al Tajamouat Industrial City in Sahab, factory conditions continue to improve at the larger direct contract plants, with most factories shutting down at 8:00 or 9:00 p.m., passports returned, payment of the legal minimum wage, improved food and payment of at least some of the overtime wage legally due the workers.

 

4.) Bangladesh Embassy in Jordan finally responds:

Following scathing articles in Bangladesh's Daily Star newspaper fiercely criticizing the government for doing nothing to protect the rights of Bangladeshi guest workers in Jordan or elsewhere, Embassy staff has finally been showing up at factories.  The workers report that at least now they know "the staff of the Bangladeshi Embassy is actually alive" and they occasionally appear at the plants.  Let's hope that the Bangladeshi Embassy is on the road to seriously meeting its responsibility to protect its citizens in Jordan. 

 

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B. The Not-so-Positive

 

1) United Garments-passports returned but 14 ½ hour shifts and seven-day workweeks continue

On the positive side, United Garments' management has returned the workers' passports and now pays the legal minimum wage.

However, the standard shift remains 14 ½ hours a day, from 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., seven days a week.  The workers can be at the factory for up to 97 hours a week.  There is no regular weekly holiday, and the workers report being shortchanged on their overtime wages.  It appears that United is paying just 49 cents an hour for overtime work, while the legal overtime premium should be 81 to 97 cents an hour.

 

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C.  Failures

 

1) Caliber Garment factory in Cyber City:  refusal to return passports, 14-to-15-hour shifts, seven days a week.

The workers report that Caliber Garment management refuses to return the guest workers passports and many workers continue to lack the necessary residency permits.  The standard shift is 14 to 15 hours a day, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 or 11:00 p.m., seven days a week.  At most, workers receive just one day off a month.  Workers are paid below the legal minimum wage and are routinely cheated on their overtime pay.  Food and dorm conditions remain substandard.

2) Horizon Clothing Factory:  Owner refuses to return workers' passports. 

3) The workers report that the following abusive factories continue to seriously violate the legal rights of the workers with complete impunity:

  • Falcon: working to 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. every day
  • Al Matin
  • Royal Fashion
  • Al Jazira
  • Al Tacoa

4) Workers Forcibly Deported

Despite numerous assurances from government and private sector representatives that no reprisals would be taken against any worker who met with the U.S. delegation visiting Jordan in May, two workers from the Saidan factory were beaten and forcibly deported at gunpoint following their meeting with us.  They were sent back to Bangladesh without their back wages or personal belongings.  To date-exactly two months later-these unjustly deported workers still have not been returned to Jordan. 

 

5.) To date-not a single cent in back wages have been paid to any of the thousands of guest workers who were (for years) paid below the legal minimum wage and routinely cheated of their overtime. 

The government does not seem to have a plan, or perhaps even intent, to deal with this serious issue.  It is the same with prosecutions.  To our knowledge, there has not been a single case in which any of the extremely abusive and violent factory managers have faced prosecution for what they have done.  This sends the wrong message, and opens the door for some factory managers to think of returning to their abusive and illegal ways once the spotlight of public attention has been lifted. 

 

6.) Jordan remains in violation of the core International Labor Organization's standard with regard to the right to organize:

At first, government authorities thought that it was Jordanian union by-laws which prohibited the foreign guest workers from organizing.  If this were the case, the union's by-laws could be amended relatively quickly and easily.  It turns out however, that it is Jordanian law that denies foreign guest workers the rights to freedom of association, to organize and bargain collectively.  Until Jordan amends its laws, the country is in violation of core ILO internationally recognized worker rights standards. 

 

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D. A Concrete, Positive Proposal to Factory Management and the Government of Jordan to Recognize and Reward Jordan's Good Factories

 

We feel that it is especially critical at this time to acknowledge and reward Jordan's good factories-those which are attempting in good faith to comply with Jordanian labor law and internationally recognized worker rights standards.  No factory is perfect, but some are very decent and should not be tarnished by the image of abusive factories which continue to withhold guest workers' passports, work grossly excessive hours and routinely cheat the workers of their legal wages.

Setting up an Independent Workers' Hotline

We would like to work with Jordan's good factories and with the Ministry of Labor in helping to set up an Independent Workers' Hotline at these good factories.

Being part of the Independent Workers' Hotline would certainly differentiate the good factories from the bad.  Being part of the Hotline would clearly demonstrate that these factories though not necessarily perfect, have nothing to hide.

This is how the Independent Workers' Hotline would work.  It is really very simple, can be set up quickly and is very inexpensive.  In factories that participate in the Hotline program, guest workers would receive a flyer in their native language which clearly explains their legal rights and obligations according to Jordanian law and internationally agreed upon worker rights standards.  The flyer would also provide a way for the workers to report serious violations by calling a toll-free number.  The unique aspect here is that the toll-free number would put the workers in direct contact with respected independent human, women's and worker rights organizations and unions in their home countries.  Since the workers know and trust these organizations, this will allow them to speak openly and truthfully, knowing that what they say will be held in confidence and that the worker rights organizations will absolutely try to help them.

In May, when the U.S. delegation was visiting Jordan, as a pilot project we distributed no more than 50 or 60 such flyers in Bengali to the Bangladeshi workers.  We included phone numbers for the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity (BCWS) and the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF).  To our surprise, literally dozens of calls poured in from factory workers all across Jordan.  Once the Hotline flyers are distributed and the calls start to come in, the system would work like this:  All communications would remain strictly confidential.  Serious allegations would be translated and sent-confidentially-to factory management and to the Ministry of Labor.  Factories would have a reasonable amount of time-perhaps two months in non-emergency situations-to investigate the allegations and, if warranted, to correct the situation.  It would be only after a reasonable amount of time and no serious response that allegations of violations would be made public.

The Independent Workers' Hotline is not meant to replace, but rather to compliment factory monitoring programs, Ministry of Labor inspections and ILO programs.

The unique aspect of the Independent Worker Rights Hotline is that it allows the workers themselves to play a central role in monitoring factory conditions.

We are ready to work with any Jordanian factory, with Ministry of Labor representatives and any U.S. company interested in being part of the Worker Rights Hotline.

Factories participating in the Hotline would, of course, be highlighted and publicly placed in a good factories list.  U.S. corporations and consumers could then be certain that they are purchasing products from good factories which have nothing to hide and want to do the right thing.

To begin with, the Hotline could deal with guest workers from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, China and India.

 

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F. Update on the Western Factory:

Click here to read an urgent update about the Western factory where workers are being beaten

 

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