Say No to Canada-Jordan Free Trade Until Jordan Ends Indentured Labour

UNITED STEELWORKERS (USW) |  By  | October, 18 2010 |  Share  | Source Article


U.S. National Labor Committee, Steelworkers Union Warn Parliamentary Committee

OTTAWA, Oct. 19 /CNW/ - Appalling sweatshop conditions in Jordanian factories should preclude Canada from implementing a trade deal with Jordan, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on International Trade was warned Monday.

Indentured labour and deplorable working and living conditions plague Jordanian factories supplying North American markets, committee members heard from the United Steelworkers union (USW) the U.S. National Labor Committee.

Charles Kernaghan, U.S. National Labor Committee executive director, testified that, after nine years of a U.S.-Jordan trade agreement, thousands of foreign "guest" workers in the middle-east kingdom continue to be stripped of their passports, forced into 99-hour work weeks and denied their rightful wages, while being housed in bedbug-infested dorms.

Kernaghan cited the International British Garment factory in the Ad Dulayl Industrial Park. IBG makes clothing for Canadian apparel company Nygard International,

"In April, 2010, we reported that 1,200 guest workers from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India, 75 per cent of whom are women, had been trafficked to the International British Garments factory, stripped of their passports and held under conditions of indentured servitude. For working 102 ½ hours a week, the workers were paid at most $35.77."

Kernaghan noted conditions improved since the report was made public, "entirely due to the brave garment workers, who stood up to struggle for their legal rights."

The USW originally supported the U.S.-Jordan trade deal when it was being negotiated in 2000, said Tim Waters, the international union's political director.

"It was a decision our union has come to deeply regret," Waters told the standing committee.

The U.S.-Jordan trade deal descended into the trafficking of tens of thousands of foreign workers to Jordanian factories, Waters said.

"The United Steelworkers union asks that the Government of Canada immediately suspend any further steps on the proposed Canada-Jordan free trade agreement until the Jordanian Government can concretely demonstrate that the legal rights of the guest workers are finally respected and assured."

Based on all available information, Jordan is failing to enforce its own labour laws, as well as the International Labour Organization's internationally-recognized workers' rights standards, Waters noted.


For further information:

Pat Van Horne (USW Legislative Representative), 613-731-6315



Testimony by Charles Kernaghan on the proposed Canada-Jordan FTA (October 18, 2010)

Testimony by Tim Waters on the proposed Canada-Jordan FTA (October 18, 2010)

NLC's Report on Classic Fashion (October 18, 2010)

An Update of the International British Garment Factory (October 18, 2010)

USW's Press Release (October 18, 2010)