Reports

June, 12 2006 |  Share

Saidan Factory: Human Trafficking and Involuntary Servitude Continue

Saidan Garment, Limited
Al Tajamouat Industrial City
PO Box: 51; Sahab-11636, Jordan
Mr. Ryad Saidan, General Manager
Phone: 962-6-402-5242

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

 

We are requesting that the Jordanian Ministry of Labor put the Saidan factory under high alert, with a full-time Ministry inspector present until the rule of law can be reestablished at the plant and the safety of the workers guaranteed.

 

Saidan is a small subcontract factory with 97 workers, including 93 guest workers from Bangladesh and four from India. In June, the Saidan factory was sewing what the workers describe as t-shirts for L.L. Bean (RN # 71341). The workers report that for at least the last  several months, the majority of production has been for L.L. Bean. The workers say that Saidan often receives subcontract work from the nearby Atateks Foreign Trade Ltd. factory, and that  quality control monitors from Atakeks are often in the Saidan plant.On May 20, Two Saidan Workers Beaten and Forcibly Deported at Gunpoint in Retaliation for Meeting with a Visiting U.S. Delegation

  • Mr. Abdul Kader (entered Jordan, November 11, 2005)

  • Mr. Badal (entered Jordan, October 29, 2005)

Both are sewing machine operators, who each paid 140,000 taka ($2,059 U.S.) to a recruitment agency in Bangladesh to purchase their three-year contracts to work at the Saidan factory. They had to borrow this money in the informal market at exorbitant interest rates of five to ten percent per month.

On the night of Thursday, May 18, 2006, Mr. Abdul Kader and Mr. Badal attended a meeting in Sahab with a U.S. delegation from the National Labor Committee and the United Steelworkers Union. The U.S. delegation had received numerous assurances both from Jordanian Government officials and private sector leaders that no worker would suffer any retaliation, and certainly would not be forcibly deported.

However, following our meeting, Mr. Saidan showed up at the workers' dormitory on Saturday night, May 20, and confronted Mr. Kader and Mr. Badal, shouting and yelling at them for attending the meeting with the U.S. delegation, and threatening that he would not keep them and that they would soon be sent back to Bangladesh. Then, at 3:00 p.m. on May 23, under the pretext that the workers were to be paid back wages owed them, Mr. Kader and Mr. Badal were asked to step outside the factory. Two drivers and a relative of the factory's general manager were waiting for them with a van. The workers were beaten, and with a pistol held to Mr. Kader's stomach, they were forced into the van. The workers were driven directly to the airport and forcibly deported. They were not permitted to stop at their dormitory to pick up their belongings. They were returned to Bangladesh without two months' back wages owed them, in addition to the Social Security deductions taken from their wages each month, which are legally to be returned when a foreign guest worker leaves the country.

Mr. Kader and Mr. Badal are now back in Bangladesh, penniless, with no money to feed their families, and facing a growing debt incurred to purchase their work contract in Jordan, which is increasing at 10 percent a month.

Both Mr. Kader and Mr. Badal are anxious to return to Jordan, since this is their only hope of paying off their loans.

When Saidan management learned of the U.S. delegation's visit to the Al Tajamouat Industrial City, they removed the factory signboard so that the Saidan factory could not be identified. Still, in case we might somehow stumble upon the factory by chance, the workers were forced to clean the toilets and were threatened to lie about factory conditions should the Americans show up. If they told the truth, they would be deported.

 

UPDATE -- JUNE 12: Saidan owner accuses deported workers of "rioting" and "beating a supervisor"

 

We were able to speak by phone with the two forcibly deported workers, Mr. Kader and Mr. Badal, who were returned to Bangladesh. We have also been in direct contact with workers still at the Saidan factory. According to every worker we spoke with, no such incident ever occurred.

There was no "rioting" and no fight took place with any supervisor. The allegations of violence were fabricated by Saidan's manager in an attempt to justify the illegal deportations and human trafficking of foreign guest workers.

Note: A representative from the L.L. Bean company says they can find no record of any of their clothing being produced in the Saidan factory. However, on June 13, Saidan workers faxed us a copy of the L.L. Bean label they are currently sewing. The workers believe this is a subcontract from the Jishan factory in Ad Dulayl. The workers describe the garment as a t-shirt.

 

Sewing Clothing for L.L. Bean-serious violations continue:

  • Workers' passports continue to be confiscated and withheld;

  • Two months' wages, for April and May, have yet to be paid. When workers ask for their back wages, Mr. Saidan responds telling them to: "Go to the Labor Court and they will pay your salary." And in the next breath he threatens the workers that anyone even approaching the Labor Court "will be immediately deported, just like Kader and Badal were."

  • The situation at the Saidan factory remains tense and threatening. The workers believe that Mr. Saidan cannot be trusted. An atmosphere of fear prevails and the workers are asking for immediate help.

  • Forced to work 16 to 17 1/2 hours a day, from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. or to 1:00 a.m., seven days a week;

  • On average, workers receive one Friday off every other month;

  • Workers dragged from their dorms and beaten for refusing to work on the May Day national holiday;

  • Routinely at the factory 118 hours a week;

  • Paid below the legal minimum wage and-despite being forced to work at least 56 hours of overtime each week-receive no overtime pay;

  • Workers are cheated of 60 percent of the wages legally due them;

  • Paid just two cents or less for every L.L. Bean t-shirt they sew;

  • Housed in primitive dorms, which often lack access to running water four a week;

  • Workers report that the food provided by the factory often makes them sick; and,

  • Workers are routinely threatened with beatings and forcible deportation for questioning the long hours and lack of pay, or even for commenting on the food. Workers have also been deported for being sick and for asking that the excessive production goals be lowered.

Some Positive Steps at the Saidan Factory:

  • Workers received a rare weekly day off. On Friday, June 9, the Saidan factory was closed and the workers enjoyed a rare weekly holiday.
  • Working hours reduced. In just the last few days, the Saidan factory has been shutting down at 8:00 p.m., which is notable given that up to that point, the standard shift has been 16 to 17 1/2 hours a day, from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. or 1:00 a.m. seven days a week. Now the daily shift has been lowered to 12 1/2 hours, from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Good news shortlived: On Monday, June 11, Saidan was back to working until 11:30 p.m.)
  • Workers receive identification cards. Saidan workers are now receiving their residency permits (akamas), which allow them to leave their factory without fear of being detained bythe police for lack of required papers.
 

Hours

  • At the factory 118 hours a week;

  • Forced to work 16 1/2 to 19 1/2 hours a day-from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., 12:00 midnight, 1:00 or 3:00 a.m.;

  • Working seven days a week, with no government holidays allowed.

In the last seven months, the Saidan workers had just three or four Fridays off, meaning they are averaging just one day off every other month. National holidays are not respected. For example, the foreign guest workers were beaten and dragged from their dormitories, punched and shoved for refusing to work on May 1, which is an official holiday in Jordan. The only holidays the workers were allowed were two days off for each of the religious Eid festivals.

The typical shift is from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.-16 hours a day. However it is also common to be forced to work 16 1/2 to 19 1/2 hour shifts, to midnight or 1:00 a.m. at least three days each week, and an 19 1/2 hour shift, to 3:00 a.m., one night. This means the workers are routinely atthe factory 118 hours a week, while working 107 hours.During the 16 to 19 1/2 hour daily shifts, the workers receive two 15-minute breaks, one for  breakfast and an afternoon tea break-but without tea-and two half-hour breaks for lunch and supper. As the factory canteen is used for storage space, the workers complain that they must take their lunch and supper sitting outside in the dirt, and it is common for sand to get into their food.

Routine Shift at Saidan

7:30 a.m. - 8:30 a.m. (Work, 1 hour)
8:30 a.m. - 8:45 a.m. (Breakfast, 15 minutes)
8:45 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.  (Work 3 1/2 hours)
12:30 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. (Lunch, 1/2 hour)
1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. (Work, 3 hours)
4:00 p.m. - 4:15 p.m. (Tea-less tea break, 15 minutes)

4:15 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

(Work, 4 1/2 hours)
8:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. (Supper, 1/2 hour)
9:00 p.m. - 11:30, or 12:00, 1:00, 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. (Work, 2 1/2 - 6 hours)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Typical Workweek

 

(At the factory 118 hours, working 107 1/2 hours)

 

Three days: 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. At factory 16 hours, working 14 1/2 hours
Two days: 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. At factory 16 1/2 hours, working 15 hours
One day: 7:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. At factory 17 1/2 hours, working 16 hours
One day: 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. At factory 19 1/2 hours, working 18 hours
  Total: At the factory 118 hours total while working 107 1/2 hours

In a typical week, the workers are forced to work 59 1/2 hours of overtime a week, which exceeds Jordan's legal limit by 430 percent.

 

Wages

  • Paid below the legal minimum wage;
  • Forced to work 56 to 591/2 hours of overtime each week without pay;
  • Cheated of $47.86 in wages legally due them each week.

In 2005, the Saidan workers were paid just 79 Jordanian Dinar a month, or $111.66, which amounts to $25.77 for a 60-hour "regular" week and just 43 cents an hour. This is well below the legal minimum wage of 64 1/2 cents for the regular 48-hour week. For seven months, from August 2005 through February 2006, the Saidan workers were being paid 21 1/2 cents an hour below the legal minimum-meaning that they were being shortchanged of 33 percent of the regular wages due them. It was not until March 2006 that the Saidan workers were paid 94 Jordanian Dinar-or $132.86 a month and $30.66 a week, which comes very close to the legal minimum wage. However, at Saidan, the "regular" work week was illegally set at 60 hours and not the legal 48 hours, which meant that the guest workers were still being cheated of 22 percent of the minimum wage due them. They were paid 51 cents an hour, rather than the 64 1/2 cent legal minimum.

But by far the most serious wage violation at the Saidan factory was management's refusal to pay overtime, despite the fact that the workers were routinely forced to toil 56 to 59 1/2 hours of overtime each week. No matter how many hours the workers were kept at the factory, they earned the same $30.66 a week. Even at the low-end range, working 104 hours, the workers should have earned at least $78.52 a week, instead of the $30.66 they were paid. Each week the workers were cheated of 61 percent of the wages legally due them, or $47.86. Each month the workers were shortchanged $207.21 in wages legally due them, which over the course of seven months would amount to at least $1,450 in lost wages.

At the legal minimum wage of 64 1/2 cents an hour, for the regular 48 hour work week, the Saidan workers should have received $30.99. For the 41 1/2 hours of regular overtime at the legal 25percent premium, 81 cents an hour, the workers should have earned $33.49. For the 14 1/2 hours of overtime on Friday, the weekly holiday, which must be paid at a 50 percent premium, or 97 cents an hour, the workers should have earned another $14.04. Instead of being paid $78.52 for the 104-hour workweek, the workers were paid just $30.66, which averages out to just 29 1/2 cents an hour. They should have been paid an average wage of 75 1/2 cents an hour.

Excessive Production Goals

The method management used to cheat the workers of their legal wages was to set daily production goals at excessively high and unrealistic levels, with the understanding that no one could leave the factory until their daily production goal was met. Each night, in order to reach their target, the workers were required to remain working 6 1/2 or more hours without pay. This was the system at the Saidan factory.

Workers Paid Two Cents or Less for Each L.L. Bean T-shirt They Sew

Saidan management assigns each assembly line of 20 sewers a mandatory daily production goal of 7,000 t-shirts in the 10-hour "regular" shift. In effect, each worker is expected to sew 35 tshirts an hour, or one every 1.714 minutes, which is impossible. The only way the assembly line can compete the goal of 7,000 is to remain working through to 11:30 p.m. or 12:00, 1:00 or even 3:00 a.m.-without pay. Since the workers average just 29 1/2 cents an hour in wages for the 104 hours of work, in some cases, they are earning less than one cent for each L.L. Bean t-shirt they sew. (1.714 minutes is 2.85666% of an hour; 2.85666 x 29 1/2 cents = $0.00842, i.e. 0.8 cents.)

Other t-shirts were more complicated and the production goal for a line of 20 sewers was to complete 2,500 shirts in 10 hours. The workers were allowed 4.8 minutes to sew each of these tshirts, and were paid slightly over two cents per shirt.

Illegal and Abusive Conditions at the Saidan Factory

  • Upon their arrival at the airport in Jordan, management confiscates the guest workers' passports. Workers who have been at the factory more than seven months still do not have the required residency permit, or identity card, which would allow them to walk outside the factory and dorm area without fear of being stopped by the police and detained for lack of proper papers. Workers who ask for their Akama ID cards are threatened with beatings. Stripped of their passports and legal residency permits, the Saidan workers are being held under conditions of involuntary servitude.
  • Workers are not allowed sick days, and will be dragged from their beds and taken to the factory. Workers too ill to keep up with the pace of production will be forcibly deported, as happened in January 2006, when two workers were returned to Bangladesh. Nor do the workers receive health care, as was promised in Bangladesh when they paid for and signed a work contract to come to Jordan.

  • Workers are routinely threatened with beatings and deportation for daring to question wages, hours or factory conditions. Workers who approach management to ask for their wages, for Friday off, or better food will be attacked and beaten. On April 13, 2006, a supervisor named Mr. Hafizur was forcibly deported from the Saidan factory after urging management to reduce the excessive overtime hours, which were exhausting the workers and hurting the quality of the production, and to pay for overtime work. Mr. Hafizur, who is back in Bangladesh, is also willing to publicly testify to the extreme abuses at the Saidan factory.

    Workers who approach management to ask for their wages, for Friday off, or better food will be attacked and beaten. On April 13, 2006, a supervisor named Mr. Hafizur was forcibly deported from the Saidan factory after urging management to reduce the excessive overtime hours, which were exhausting the workers and hurting the quality of the production, and to pay for overtime work. Mr. Hafizur, who is back in Bangladesh, is also willing to publicly testify to the extreme abuses at the Saidan factory.

Conditions were so bad at the Saidan factory that in early 2006, five workers tried to run away, leaving their passports behind, fleeing on foot, hiding by day and running at night in an attempt to cross the border of Jordan. Three of the fleeing workers were caught by the police and spent one month in jail. Saidan management then took the imprisoned workers back to the factory as an example to the other workers that it is best to do your work and to remain silent.

  • Crowded dorms often lacking water; sickening food. The workers are housed outside the industrial park in a dorm which is about a half hour's walk from the factory. Twelve workers must share each small room. The worst part is that their house often lacks access to running water for four or five days each week. The workers cannot bathe and must go to a neighboring house to use the bathroom. The bathrooms in the dorm and factory are always filthy.

The workers also report that they often fall sick from the company food, especially during the hot summer months, when the workers feel the food is spoiled.

No One Helped Them

No one has ever explained to the Saidan workers their legal rights under Jordan's labor law, and as a result they remain ignorant of the legal 48-hour workweek in Jordan and the 64 1/2 cent-anhour  minimum wage. They have never heard of the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement. During their stay in Jordan, no one has ever helped them. They report having nowhere to turn.

 

Click here to read a transcript of a videotaped interview with the two deported workers.