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Transcript of Kader and Badal Interview

July, 13 2006 Share

A Case of Human Trafficking and Involuntary Servitude

Mr. Abdul Kader and Mr. Badal were beaten and forcibly deported at gunpoint from the Saidan factory in Jordan, in retaliation for meeting with a visiting U.S. delegation. The workers were returned to Bangladesh without their belongings or back wages. What follows is the transcript of a videotaped interview with Abdul Kader and Badal conducted in Dhaka on June 1, 2006.

Abdul Kader (AK): My name is Abdul Kader. I went to Jordan for work, but the owner of the factory has forcibly returned me home. They beat us and sent us back to Bangladesh from Jordan.

Badal (B): My name is Badal. I also went to Jordan to work for Saidan factory. I came back  home on Wednesday, May 24. They tortured us and sent us back to Bangladesh. We are roaming the streets and are facing much trouble.

AK: The owner forced us to enter into the airport and went away. We did not have a chance to speak to anybody. Through my friends I got to know that the Mahbub Travel agency was recruiting some workers to work in the garment factories in Jordan. Then I went to Mahbub Travels office and talked to one officer named Jamal. Jamal encouraged me to go to Jordan, as workers are benefited working in Jordan. I asked Mahbub "What are the benefits?" He responded as follows:

"Workers would get Tk. 12, 000 [$146.47] as regular salary and with overtime one would make Tk. 15,000 [$220.59]. The doctor for medical treatment and medicine is free. The accommodation and food is entirely free of charge."Then I submitted my passport. I boarded the plane on October 19, 2005 and arrived Jordan on October 20.

The owner came to the airport to receive us. When we got out of the airport, then the owner confiscated our passports. We were altogether 36 workers. Among us there was one woman worker.

I had to buy the contract at the cost of Tk. 140, 000 [$2,059]. As I was a garment worker in Bangladesh I did not have my own money to purchase the contract. I took a loan from my relatives and borrowed money on credit from the bank. Thus I went to Jordan, but we were forced to leave Jordan.

The owner informed us we had to work from 7:30 a.m. in the morning. We used to get up 6:30 a.m. and got prepared to go to the factory. We walked to the factory and it took 30 minutes to get to the factory. We started working at 7:30 a.m. After working one hour we were provided breakfast in the factory at 8:30 a.m. There was a 15-minute break for the breakfast. Again we started working at 8:45 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. There was a lunch break for half an hour. After the lunch we worked from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. There was again a break for 15 minutes from 4:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. but they did not provide us any refreshment or tea. We sat in the factory since we did not have the luxury of buying tea outside of the factory. A few workers would go outside for tea or cake. The owner did not give us any refreshment.

For breakfast we were given a piece of bread and lentil. At lunch at 12:30 p.m. they gave rice and one egg for four days, mutton for two days and chicken for one day in a week.

The company did not provide us refreshment at 4:00 p.m. We told the management that many factories provide tea and biscuit to the workers and we asked why we were not provided the refreshment. They responded, "The company would never give any refreshment," and  threatened us deportation if we continued to ask for refreshment. "The factory will run the way we want.

You have come here at the cost of a handsome amount of money. If you are sent back, you will face much hardship. If you speak about this we will send you back home." The owner, Ryad and production manager, Sauad, told us this. We worked again from 4:15 until 8:30 p.m. The company supplied supper at 8:30 p.m. in the factory. There was a canteen in the factory, but it was used as a storeroom. We had to sit outside of the factory in an open field for lunch and supper. It was windy and dust appears on the plate.

Some workers sat under the water tank. During the lunchtime it was very sunny, and when it rained we got soaked. We wanted to take lunch and supper in the factory. They said, "No. You must take food outside." We were obliged to sit under the water tank. The quality of the food was bad. We would often vomit, as we were eating eggs in hot weather. Even then, it was obligatory to take eggs four times a week although we disliked it. We explained to them we did not feel good about this food. They responded, "If you had not like it, go back to Bangladesh," and asked us,"Did you take much better food in Bangladesh?" I took also bad quality food in Bangladesh.

We did not protest this, as we knew we were indebted to relatives to come here. And if we went back, how would we pay back the loan? If we were sent back we would be in trouble.

After a 30-minute supper break we again started working at 9:00 p m. It was fixed that we had to work until 11:30 p.m. If we could not meet the target, we had to work additionally until 12:00 midnight, 1:00 a.m., 3:00 a.m. to reach the production goal. We asked, "Why should we work such long hours without overtime?" They responded, "Since you could not meet the target, you had to make it with extra hours."

The target was so ambitious that it was impossible to meet. For example, we had to make 7,000 pieces in 12 hours. Even working 16-17 hours we were unable to reach the target. The management's order was that nobody could leave the factory with the goal unmet. We asked a day off on Fridays, but they told us, "You are here to work. Friday will be treated as a normal working day. You should not think anything else." On Fridays we worked until 11:30 p.m. We told them, "We need some relaxation." They responded, "You have come here to make money. Push it as far as you can."We argued that they did not pay us correctly, but they said, "You want to be a leader. You speak too much. If you take the lead you will be sent back to Bangladesh."

We have asked for Akama [residency permits] for moving around and to be able to go outside. They told us, "You will not be given the Akama because you would run away if you get the Akama. Then who would be responsible? You have to work without Akama" Workers got sick from such long working hours and wept over this misfortune. If someone said, "I am sick how can go to the factory?" they responded, "You will have to attend the factory by any means. There was no excuse. Sick workers must attend the factory and are ordered to work."

They told us, "You are pretending to be sick." even though workers were really sick. They said, "Would you like to go back to Bangladesh? If you can do work, why do you pretend?"

They said, "If you talk too much, we will force you to clean the toilets." They compelled many workers to clean the toilets. Usually the toilets were very dirty in the factory, the smell spread across the floor out of the filthy toilets. They do not clean the toilets. When we asked them to clean the toilets, they responded, "You do it."

When we finished work, at night we walked back to the house. It was very cold while we were there. There was no regular flow of water in the house. Twelve workers shared one room. There was nothing in the room except one bed, a pillow and a light blanket. It was very cold inside the room. The bathroom in the house was also unclean. There was no door on the bathroom. A bad smell comes out the bathroom. In spite of our request, they did not pay heed to it. They said it would be taken into consideration later, but nothing ever happened. In a week, we hardly had access to water for 1-2 days. We faced lack of water. The rest of the time, we could not wash our faces. When we got back home at night, in most cases we did not have access to water. Sometimes we used to go to a colleague's house to drink water. We faced scarcity of drinking water.

B: We got sub-contract work from a nearby factory called Atateks. We made T-shirts and Polo  shirts. We had a production goal of making 7, 000 to 8, 000 each line. It was impossible to meet the target, and we had to work to 12:00 midnight-1.00 a.m. We were not allowed to leave the factory unless we met the target. After working such long hours, the company did not pay us overtime. Regular salary was not paid on a fixed date or time. They kept two months'-one and half month's salary at hand. They beat us when we asked for our salary.

In the first month we were paid 79 JD. Before they sent back we were given 94 JD. They did not pay us the last two months' salary. They forced us to get into a van to go to the airport. Now we are in Bangladesh. We face even more severe economic hardship. [79 Jordanian Dinar = $111.50 U.S.; 94 JD = $132.68]

AK: In our factory there were total 97 workers; among them 4 were Indian. There were nine  Bangladeshi worker-leaders. Four of them had already been deported earlier. Five ran away.

Three of them were caught. They experienced tough jail life in Jordan. They were in jail for one month, and finally the company brought them back to the factory from the jail. Now the company teaches other workers this example. They instruct the workers to work silently, not to speak to each other.

B: The company did not pay us for April and May. We all went to management to ask for our  unpaid salary, as our family members were facing problems in Bangladesh. After this the company targeted four or five of our colleagues and took us in the office and beat us and we had to apologize. The management told us that we would be paid after two days. They purposely delayed it for one more day and another.

In the meantime one of our friends informed me about Mr. Charlie's arrival in Sahab. We felt encouraged to tell our problems to him. He carefully listened to our problems and asked to go back to the house with a hope that the problems would be solved.

Then two supervisors, Ms. Khairun and Mr. Kuddus, knew through other workers that we had met with Charlie. The supervisors informed the owner of the factory about our meeting with Charlie.

The owner bought our tickets and forcibly put us in van and showed us arms to go to the airport.

We were told that we would be paid. They called two workers first and paid their salaries. Then Kader was called and asked to bring a change for a one JD coin into different denominations from a shop outside of the factory. There was a van, a driver, and two Jordanians ready outside of the factory. They asked Kader to come close to them. Then they forced him to get into the van, beat him and showed him the pistol. Similarly I was told that I would be paid. They told me to make change for a one JD coin into different denominations from outside the factory. They added that our wage had been increased to 95 JD, overtime rate rightly calculated, and all the problems had been solved. I was pleased to hear of these.

When I was out to change the coin I was caught by them. They put the pistol in my waist and forced me to get into the van. They violently beat both Kader and me in the van. They drove us to the airport at the van's maximum speed. There were two Jordanians and one driver at that time.

Before arriving at the airport, the police checked the van and asked them where do you take these two guys? They responded, these two workers will be deported. The Police wanted to know the reason for deportation. In response they told the police that the two workers spoke against our government and our King Abdullah. These workers said Abdullah is not a good man. But we did not say that. They told lies to the police. The Police hinted that since the workers were making derogatory remarks about Jordan and its King to send them back. We failed to make the police understand that we did not speak against Jordan.

We did not know that we had to leave. They did not give us a chance to take our luggage, clothing and other belongings. We wanted to visit our house, but they did not allow us to do it and they did not even allow us to talk to others. They brought our passports with them and gave them back to us at the airport. They confirmed that our passports have been sealed for immigration. It was May 23 at 4:30 p.m. we left Jordan. We arrived at the Dhaka airport on May 24 8:00 in the morning.

The company did not pay us the last two months' salary and overtime. Every month they kept 5 JD for Social Security with the commitment that we would get it back when we left the factory.

They did not pay us the social security money. We purchased the contract at the cost of 140,000 Taka. The company only paid us five months. The last two months they did not pay us. We don't have any money. We cannot repay the loan that we took for going to Jordan.

Now, we would like to go back to Jordan to work. We want to repay our loans. The food that was given to us was low quality food and it had no taste. We got sick from the food.

There was no doctor, no medicine in the factory. When someone felt sick we had to consult with the doctor in the hospital and buy medicine with our own money.

There was a signboard in front of the factory. When labor inspectors or buyers would come to the factory, they put the signboard aside and hid it in some other place. We went to Jordan with a great hope but we are now facing hardship. The company did not provide us with an identity card. As a result we could not move around outside. We were there like being in jail. The Bangladeshi Embassy, the Jordan police did not help us even though we made complaints to them. Two times we complained to them but received no response.

Where should we go, if no one helps us solve our problems?

The End.

Click here for the NLC report on the Saidan factory.

Click here to read L.L. Bean's response to NLC reports

Main Jordan campaign page