Systematic Gross Violations of Human and Worker Rights Continue under the U.S.-Jordan FTA: Classic Fashion Apparel
Classic Fashion Apparel Industry Ltd. Co.
Al Hassan Industrial Area
The Classic Fashion Apparel company is a large apparel manufacturer with six factories in the Al Hassan Industrial Park in Irbid, Jordan, where approximately 4,500 foreign guest workers from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India and Nepal toil under harsh sweatshop conditions. The majority of guest workers are Sri Lankan, with an estimated 600 to 700 Bangladeshi workers and another 500 India and Nepalese workers.
Classic also has two other garment factories, one in the Ad Dulayl Industrial Area and another in Al Tajamouat.
Classic is owned by a wealthy Indian businessman, Mr. Sanal.
The Institute for Global Labour & Human Rights has been tracking serious violations at Classic factories since March 2007.
Workers report that approximately 60 percent of current production is for Wal-Mart's "George" and "Danskin Now" labels. Other labels currently sewn at Classic include "Champion" for Hanes and "Style & Co Jeans" for Macy's. Russell, Sears, Fruit of the Loom and Talbots have all been sewn in 2009 and 2010. All the above garments, made under sweatshop conditions, enter the U.S. duty-free under the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement. With so many prominent labels being sewn at Classic, one would expect these giant retailers could do a better job of monitoring factory conditions.
As most Jordanians refuse to work in the garment factories, the vast majority-up to 90 percent-of workers are foreign guest workers. The majority of Jordan's apparel factories are foreign-owned and almost all of the textiles come from China. As textiles account for approximately 63 percent of the cost of the garment, Chinese textile plants are the largest beneficiaries of the duty-free tariff breaks under the U.S.-Jordan FTA.
- Management illegally confiscated the passports of more than 2,000 foreign guest workers.
- All overtime is mandatory, and workers are routinely at the Classic factory up to 99 ½ hours a week. This includes a grueling, forced 24 ½ hour all-night shift each week from 7:30 a.m. Thursday morning straight through to 8:00 a.m. Friday morning. Overtime hours exceed Jordan's legal limit by 214 percent.
- Workers report being cheated of 41 to 46 percent of the wages legally due them. Workers should be earning $75.96 to $78.24 for the 89 ½ to 92-hours of work. Instead they earn just $40.67 to $45.55.
- Physical abuse, beatings and threats by management are the norm. In mid-September 2010, a Sri Lankan production manager, Mr. Sorminda, slapped a sewing operator, Ms. Kumari, for failing to reach her mandatory production goal. Mr. Faruk, also a production manager, punched a mechanic, Mr. Sabuj, when he refused to unload fabric, protesting that he was a skilled mechanic and not a manual laborer. Mr. Monos, Classic's accountant, routinely curses, pushes and slaps workers who ask for clarification regarding how their overtime was calculated, as what they are paid is far below what they are owed. In early September, Mr. Monos hit Ms. Debika, a sewing operator, when she questioned her pay.
- The primitive, overcrowded worker dorms are infested with bed bugs. Despite their exhaustion after working 14 ½ to 15 hours a day, workers have trouble sleeping due to constant bed bug bites, which are painful and itchy and often lead to swelling and infections. Workers report that water in both the factory and dorm is not potable, and the workers frequently suffer dysentery. Factory food is of low quality and often rotten.
Wal-Mart’s Danskin Now and Macy’s Style&co. labels smuggled out from Classic Fashion in October 2010
Wal-Mart’s George label, Macy’s Style&co., Hanes’ Champion and other labels smuggled out from Classic Fashion in October 2010
All overtime is mandatory, with 14 ½ to 15 hour shifts Saturday through Wednesday, from 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 or 10:30 p.m. On Thursdays, there is a forced 24 ½ hour all-night shift from 7:30 a.m. straight through to 8:00 a.m. the following Friday morning. This puts the workers at the factory 97 to 99 ½ hours a week!
During the all-night 24 ½ hour shift, management plays loud music to keep the workers awake, while supervisors patrol the shop floor screaming at workers who appear to be on the verge of nodding off.
Workers receive just 1 ¼ hours in breaks during the 14 ½ to 24 ½ hour shifts. This means the workers are actually toiling 89 ½ to 92 hours each week, including 41 ½ to 44 hours of forced overtime, in addition to the regular 48 hour workweek.
Under Jordanian law, all overtime work must be voluntary and cannot exceed 14 hours a week. Overtime at the Classic factory exceeds the legal limit by 196 to 214 percent.
Despite these and other gross violations at the Classic factory, the Jordanian Ministry of Labor has placed Classic on its "Golden List" of factories, an award given only to those factories that are supposedly in strict compliance with all Jordanian labor laws.
Typical Sweatshop Shift at the Classic Factory
7:30 a.m. - 9:15 a.m.
Work, 1 ¾ hours
9:15 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.
Tea break, 15 minutes
9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Work, 3 hours
12:30 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Lunch, ½ hour
1:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Work, 5 ½ hours
6:30 p.m. - 6:45 p.m.
Tea break, 15 minutes
6:45 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Work, 1 ¾ hours
8:30 p.m. - 8:45 p.m.
Supper, 15 minutes
8:45 pm - 10 or 10:30 p.m.
Work, 1 ¼ to 1 ¾ hours
During the mandatory 24 ½ hour shift there are no additional breaks after the 8:30 to 8:45 p.m. supper break. The Thursday shift is from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. the following Friday morning.
At the 15-minute tea break from 9:15 to 9:30 a.m., workers receive tea with pita bread and lentils. During the half-hour lunch break from 12:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m., either chicken or beef is served with lentils. Workers report that the chicken is often rotten and foul smelling. The 15-minute tea break from 6:30 p.m. includes tea and biscuits. The workers' dinner period is also just 15 minutes, from 8:30 to 8:45 p.m., when potatoes, vegetables and lentils are served.
These grueling 14 ½ to 24 ½ hour shifts and 89 ½ to 92-hour workweeks have been the norm since July 2010.
For each production line, Classic's management sets a mandatory production goal or target of completing 4,000 jackets or pants in the "official" 12-hour shift. With 75 sewing operators on each line, this means the workers have just 13 ½ minutes to sew each garment, which is not possible. When the workers fail to meet the excessive production goal, they are required to remain working overtime, without pay, until they complete the target. At a minimum, workers are routinely cheated of two overtime hours each day. Nor are the workers paid for the mandatory all-night shift on Thursday nights from 12:00 midnight to 8:00 a.m. the following Friday morning.
As the production goals are wildly excessive, the workers face constant stress, threatened with loss of wages and even forcible deportation as punishment.
Management is now in the process of forcibly deporting 300 Sri Lankan guest workers who repeatedly missed their targets. Management has confiscated the passports of these 300 workers.
Workers should be earning at least $75.96 to $78.24 a week for the 89 ½ to 92 hours of work, but are being paid just $40.67 to $45.55, meaning they are being shortchanged of $31.20 to $35.29 in wages legally due them each week.
Legal Wage in Jordan
(110 Jordanian Dinar per month; 1 JD = $1.41 U.S.)
74.5 cents an hour
$35.79 a week (48 hours)
$155.10 a month
$1,861.20 a year
Weekday overtime must be voluntary and paid at a 25 percent premium, which amounts to 93 cents an hour. Work on Friday (the weekly day off) and holidays must be paid at a 50 percent premium, or $1.12 an hour.
Classic workers report being forced to toil 41 ½ to 44 hours of overtime each week on top of the regular 48 hours of work. The regular 48 hours must be paid at $35.79, while the 41 ½ to 44 hours of overtime must be paid at $38.68 to $40.96, for a total wage of $74.47 to $76.75. The 50 percent premium for eight hours of work Friday, from 12 midnight to 8:00 a.m., would add another $1.49 to the workers' wages for a total of $75.96 to $78.24.
In early 2008, Classic's owner, Mr. Sanal, operated four factories in the Al Hassan Industrial Park. In just the last 2 ½ years, Mr. Sanal has acquired four more garment factories-two in the Al Hassan Industrial Park and one each in the Ad Dulyl Industrial Park and the Al Tajamouat Zone.
It is clear, that at the same time Classic management was routinely cheating the workers of their legal wages and benefits, Mr. Sanal went on a buying spree so that he now owns eight garment export factories in Jordan. The U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement has been extremely lucrative for Mr. Sanal and his growing stable of factories, while the workers have been stripped of their rights and routinely cheated of their wages.
Workers report that management is failing to accurately record all the overtime hours they are forced to work. The Classic factory also illegally deducts 20 JD ($28.20) from the workers' wages for food costs. The workers' three-year contracts to work at Classic specifically state that all food, housing and healthcare will be free of charge. Not only are the workers cheated and forced to pay $28.20 a month for their meager food rations, they also do not receive even the most basic healthcare, and their dormitories are primitive, overcrowded and infested with bed bugs.
The so-called healthcare the workers receive at Classic is that a doctor is available twice a week for a couple of hours. Even if the doctor writes prescriptions or advises further medical tests, the workers are forced to pay these expenses themselves. The norm is for workers to go without medical care even if they are gravely ill, because they simply cannot afford it.
Workers are also paid late. Rather than paying wages during the first week of the following month, Classic management delays payment until the second, third or fourth week of the following month. As of October 17, 2010, the workers have yet to receive their September wages. Often they are not paid until the 20th or 30th.
Late payment of wages is a very serious issue for the guest workers. Their families back in Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh and Nepal are very poor and must borrow money each month to survive and to pay off the $1500 to $3000 the workers had to borrow to pay for their work contracts in Jordan. When the guest workers' remittances to their home countries fail to arrive-often they are two or three weeks late-local loan sharks threaten their families. This is another violation which adds to the workers' constant stress and fear.
Workers estimate that up to half of the 4,500 foreign guest workers at the six Classic factories in the Al Hassan Industrial Park have been stripped of their passports. This is illegal, and confiscating more than 2,000 workers' passports involves the crime of human trafficking.
In some cases, management demanded the workers passports so they could arrange for government-issued "akamas" (work permits) and their work ID cards. However, management then refused to return the workers' passports.
After the National Labor Committee and United Steelworkers union travelled to Jordan in January 2008, for meetings with Classic's owner, Mr. Sanal, Ministry of Labor officials and-most importantly-with the workers, conditions moderately improved through 2008 and well into 2009. However, without constant pressure from international human and labor rights organizations, Mr. Sanal and his Classic factories began to return to past violations. About a year and a half ago, management reverted to delaying payment of worker' wages for up to four weeks. The workers dorms were dirty and infested with bed bugs. Management returned to the practice of locking women workers in their dormitory compounds, prohibiting them from going outside.
Classic workers of every nationality told us that they have "zero trust" in the Ministry of Labor, the labor courts and the Jordanian unions. The workers feel as if they are "imprisoned" in Jordan.
- In January 2008, a delegation from the National Labor Committee and the United Steelworkers union travelled to Jordan for meetings with the Ministry of Labor, Classic's owner Mr. Sanal and with Classic's workers. Even with advance notice of our visit to the Classic factory the evening of Monday, January 14, the factory was in full swing at 7:45 p.m. They were working a 13-hour shift from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. The factory was cold and the workers were sitting on hard, backless stools, toiling hunched over their sewing machines wearing sweaters, sweatshirts and woolen hats and scarves over their heads.
That night over 700 Classic workers filed into the auditorium at the Al Hassan Industrial Park for a huge meeting. The meeting would have been even larger, but hundreds were turned away due to lack of space. For nearly two hours, the workers confronted two Ministry of Labor officials, detailing the serious and illegal worker rights violations they faced every single day.
The National Labor Committee was also in contact with all the major labels being sewn at Classic during that period.
Under pressure, working conditions at the Classic Fashion group of factories did modestly improve for some time. The factory was far from perfect, but it was improving.
- But as of mid to late 2009, factory conditions at Classic have again begun to seriously deteriorate. Managers Mr. Sorminda, Mr. Yoga, Mr. Faruk and accountant Mr. Monos routinely curse, slap, punch and threaten workers.
Over 700 Classic workers confronting Ministry of Labor officials at a meeting in January 2008
- On March 3, 2007, a group of foreign guest workers at the Classic Fashion factory contacted the National Labor Committee asking for help regarding serious worker rights violations dating back to 2005.
In 2007, the workers reported routine mandatory 14-hour shifts, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., seven days a week, with a 15-hour shift on Thursdays to 10:30 p.m.-putting them in the factory 99 hours a week. Despite working six to seven overtime hours each day, they were only paid for three hours. Management imposed wildly excessive mandatory production goals, which were impossible to meet no matter how hard the workers toiled, resulting in wage deductions. Workers' passports were confiscated and 20 JD ($28.20) was illegally deducted from their wages to cover food costs.
- The attached urgent action alert was issued by the National Labor Committee on December 14, 2007.
December 14, 2007
URGENT ACTION ALERT
Three Thousand Foreign Guest Workers on Strike in Jordan Sewing Clothing
for Wal-Mart, Gloria Vanderbilt and GAP
Workers Beaten by Police
Classic Fashion Apparel Industry
Al Hassan Industrial City
Three thousand foreign guest workers, 50 percent of them young women--1,500 from Sri Lanka, 900 from Bangladesh, 400 from India and 100 from Nepal--have been on strike since Monday, December 10, 2007. The situation is critical. At least 10 workers were beaten today by the police. Before going on strike, the workers had written to the Jordanian Ministry of Labor seeking help, but received no response.
- Workers paid less than half the wages legally due them, earning a take-home wage of just $30.95 a week for a minimum of 78 hours of work, while they should have been paid at least $64.88.
- Routine 12 1/2 to 14 1/2-hour shifts, from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00, 9:00 or 10:00 p.m., seven days a week with at most two days off each month. Workers are at the factory 80 1/2 to 93 1/2 hours a week.
- Two young women report being raped by factory management.
- Managers routinely shout and curse at the workers and even slap and beat them for falling behind in their production goal or making minor errors.
- Workers say they are locked in the factory and afraid that if a fire breaks out they will be trapped.
- The bathrooms are filthy.
- Factory dorms are very cold, lack heat and are seriously overcrowded with 12 people crammed into each room.
- Workers describe the factory food as too little and often stale, with an "awful" taste.
- Factory management does not pay medical expenses and does not respect the workers' legal right to 14 days paid annual vacation.
- Workers are paid just 15 cents for each pair of jeans they sew for Wal-Mart and Gloria Vanderbilt.
12 1/2 to 14 1/2 hour shifts, from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00, 9:00 or 10:00 p.m., seven days a week. At most the workers receive just two days off a month. Workers are at the factory 78 hours to 93 hours a week.
7:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. (Work, 5 hours)
12:30 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. (Lunch, 1/2 hour)
1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. (Work, 4 hours)
5:00 p.m. - 5:15 p.m. (Break, 15 minutes)
5:15 p.m. - 8:00, 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. (Work, 2 3/4 - 4 3/4 hours)
Workers are paid just $39.10 a week and $169.42 a month (120 JD) for working a minimum of 78 hours a week, including 30 hours of mandatory overtime. On average, the workers are earning just 50 cents an hour, which is well below the 75-cent legal minimum wage, not to mention the legal overtime premiums due the workers. What makes matters even worse is that management deducts $35.30 each month for room and board, reducing the workers' take-home wage to just $30.95 a week, which is less than half of the $64.88 the workers are legally owed.
Legal Minimum Wage in Jordan:
* 75 cents an hour
* $35.84 a week (48 hours)
* $155.30 a month
* $1,863.62 a year
* All weekday overtime must be paid at a 25 percent premium--93 cents an hour.
* All overtime on Fridays, the legal holiday, must be paid at a 50 percent premium--$1.12 per hour.
For toiling a minimum of 78 hours a week (6 1/2 days), the workers should have earned $35.84 for the regular 48 hours, $22,32 for the 24 hours of weekday overtime at 93 cents an hour, and $6.72 for six hours of overtime on Friday at $1.12 an hour for a total of $64.88 and not the $30.95 the workers are taking home.
Each assembly line, with 70 to 75 sewing operators, must complete 2,400 pairs of jeans in the standard 12-hour shift. The production goal is mandatory. This means the production line must complete 200 pairs of jeans an hour with an average of 72.5 sewers. In effect then, each worker must complete 2.76 pairs of jeans per hour or one pair every 32 minutes. At a take home wage of just 40 cents an hour, this means that the workers are earning just 15 cents for each pair of jeans they sew.
The workers smuggled "Gloria Vanderbilt" and "Behold" labels out of the factory.
They also report routinely sewing clothing for Wal-Mart--which U.S. Customs documents confirm--and for The Gap. More information will follow.
Please ask the Jordanian Government to intervene immediately and to bring the Classic factories into strict compliance with all Jordanian labor laws.
Ask Wal-Mart, Gloria Vanderbilt and GAP to clean up their contractor's plant.