Sexual Predators and Serial Rapists Run Wild at Wal-Mart Supplier in Jordan
|Campaign: Classic/Jordan-Sweatshop Abuse, Sexual Predators|
Young women workers raped, tortured and beaten at the Classic Factory
For a complete report, please access the PDF report above or download the PDF report.
- According to witnesses who work at Classic Fashion, scores of young Sri Lankan women sewing clothing for Wal-Mart and Hanes have suffered routine sexual abuse and repeated rapes, and in some cases even torture. One young rape victim at the Classic factory in Jordan told us her assailant, a manager, bit her, leaving scars all over her body. Women who become pregnant are forcibly deported and returned to Sri Lanka. Women who refuse the sexual advances of Classic's managers are also beaten and deported.
- Classic, the largest garment export factory in Jordan, sews clothing for Wal-Mart, Hanes, Kohl's, Target and Macy's. The garments enter the U.S. duty-free under the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement.
- On the weekly holiday, the alleged serial rapist general manager, Anil Santha, sends a van to bring four or five young women to his hotel, where he abuses them. The lives of the young Sri Lankan rape victims are completely shattered, as in their culture, virginity is highly prized and critical for a good marriage.
- In October 2010, 2,400 Sri Lankan and Indian workers went on strike demanding the removal of the alleged rapist, Anil. Classic's owner, Sanal Kumar, sent Anil away, but he returned after one month.
- Through GLHR/National Labor Committee's reports, the Ministry of Labor has been made aware of the sexual abuse as early as 2007, but has done nothing.
- The standard shift at Classic is 13 hours a day, six and seven days a week, with some 18 ½ hour shifts before the clothing must be shipped to the U.S. According to witness testimonies, workers are routinely cursed at, hit and shortchanged of their wages for failing to reach their mandatory production goals. To press the women to work faster, managers grope and fondle them.
- The workers-who are from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Egypt, earn a take-home wage of just 61 cents an hour.
- The workers are housed in primitive dorms lacking heat or hot water, but which are infested with bed bugs. The women have extremely limited freedom of movement and are allowed to leave the factory compound just one day a week for six hours. When they are forced to work through their weekly holiday, they may be allowed out just once or twice a month.
- The minimal efforts of Wal-Mart, Hanes and the other labels to monitor factory conditions at Classic have failed completely. Workers are threatened by management and forced to say that conditions are good.
- We are strongly urging representatives of the labels to join us in Jordan on Friday, June 17 for a large meeting with the Classic workers.
- It is our intention, along with the United Steelworkers and our women's rights colleagues in Sri Lanka, to rescue the women who have been victimized and return them safely home to their families. We expect Wal-Mart, Hanes and the other labels to pay significant compensation to the rape victims to restore some dignity to their lives. This is the least they can do.
- The U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement has also failed over the last ten years to protect the basic rights of the 30,000 foreign guest workers sewing garments for export to the U.S.
- One Bangladeshi worker recently deported from the Classic factory told us today that, "all the workers of Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh...everybody will testify that Anil raped the Sri Lankan women. Everybody knows. In a safe place, the workers will testify."
By Charles Kernaghan
It was only because of several extremely courageous women who were victimized while sewing garments for Wal-Mart, Hanes and other labels, that we now know of the horrific sexual abuse and rapes that have been going on in Jordan since at least 2007. The women, whose lives were destroyed, taped their testimonies using cell phones. It was only in December of 2010, when GLHR was in Jordan meeting with Classic and other workers, that the taped testimonies were given to us. When we returned to the United States, we had them translated from Sinhalese into English. When were finally able to watch the tapes, we sat there and cried. We were stunned at how these young Sri Lankan women had been raped and tortured, while sewing clothing for the largest retailer on the face of the earth, Wal-Mart, and for Hanes, the most popular label in the United States.
The plea of the women workers, whose lives had been destroyed, was that if they could alert new guest workers not to enter the hell hole that Classic is and if they could save even one woman from the fate that they had suffered, they would feel vindicated.
Because of these brave women, GLHR, the United Steelworkers union, and our women's rights colleagues from Sri Lanka will soon travel to Jordan to rescue as many rape victims as we can.
We will not let these women down.
Classic Fashion Apparel Industry, Ltd. Co.
Mr. K. S. Sanal Kumar (India)
Owner, Chairman and Managing Director
Al-Hassan Industrial Estate,
Ramtha, Irbid, Jordan
Cell: +96. 2775.757057
There are five separate Classic factories in the Al Hassan Industrial Estate: Classic I, Classic II, Classic III, and Classic IV and V, which are housed in the same building.
Labels produced at the Classic Group of Factories are: "Danskin Now" (Wal-Mart), "Champion" (Hanes for Target), "Style & Co" (Macy's), "Sonoma" (Kohl's). An order for the large food service company, Sodexo, had just been completed at Classic.
Wal-Mart accounts for the largest proportion of production at Classic.
Classic opened its first garment factory in Jordan in 2003, with a workforce of just 300 guest workers and $2 million in sales for the year. Over the next seven years, Classic grew at an almost impossible pace. By the end of 2010, Classic's workforce had surged to over 4,800-a sixteen-fold increase from the 300 workers in 2003 and the vast majority of them poor women guest workers from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India. During the same period, from 2003 to 2010, Classic's sales grew by 60 fold, from $2 million in 2003 to $120 million at the end of 2010. Running a sweatshop under the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement, employing young women guest workers who are stripped of their rights, is evidently very profitable.
Today, Classic Fashion is the largest garment exporter in Jordan, producing over 100,000 garments a day and accounting for over 15 percent of total exports even in 2009. Eighty-five percent of Classic's employees are guest workers.
Classic Fashion has five factories in the Al-Hassan Industrial Estate along with two other plants, Jerash in the Al-Tajamouat Industrial Estate and the Casual Wear factory in the Ad Dulayl Industrial Park.
Classic Fashion is Indian-owned. There is a Classic Fashion Apparel factory located in the Chennai area of India, and Classic has another factory, Mechanical Ing at Classic Fashion Apparel in Egypt.
By any serious and objective account, the Classic Group of factories in Jordan would surely be categorized as illegal sweatshops. Yet, what seems incomprehensible, the Jordanian Ministry of Labor has awarded the Classic Group of factories "Golden List" status for the last 4 ¾ years! Being on the "Golden List" means these factories are in full compliance with all local Jordanian laws as well as with the labor rights provisions in the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement. Supposedly, only factories "complying with international/local social and ethical compliance requirements" can achieve "Golden List" status.
A monitoring group called "Better Work Jordan," which is almost exclusively funded by the U.S. Government, has also been inspecting the Classic Group of factories for the last two years. Moreover:
"Better Work Jordan certifies Classic Fashion for producing garments to major retailers and brands like Wal-Mart, Kohl's, Hanesbrands, Jones Apparel, Sears, Lands End, to name a few."
-"Social Accountability and Sustainability,"
Awards and recognitions
Classic Fashion website
The sad reality at the Classic Group of factories is one of serial rapists and sexual predators running wild, abusing and torturing scores of young women guest workers, especially those from Sri Lanka. Workers are routinely beaten and forced to work overtime while being shortchanged of their legal wages. The dorms lack heat and hot water, but have an abundance of bed bugs. Freedom of movement is strictly curtailed for women workers. Any worker asking for her basic rights will be forcibly deported on false charges. The 4,800 foreign guest workers at the Classic Group of factories in Jordan are trapped in a hell hole with no exit and nowhere to turn for help.
Under the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement, Jordan's garment exports to the U.S. increased by 34.4 percent in 2010, reaching $1.06 billion, compared to $748 million in 2009.
There are over 30,000 poor, mostly young women, foreign guest workers toiling in Jordan's largely foreign-owned garment factories sewing clothing for export to the United States. Under the Free Trade Agreement, those garments enter the U.S. duty-free.
The guest workers are from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, China, Nepal and Egypt. They earn less than three-quarters the wage of Jordanian garment workers, who account for only 15 to 25 percent of the total garment workforce. Jordanians earn $1.02 an hour while the foreign guest workers take home 74 ½ cents an hour. The Jordanians work eight hours a day, while the guest workers toil an average of 12 hours a day.
Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan and Indian workers go into debt to purchase their work contracts at Classic.
Young women guest workers at Classic speak out-
of being repeatedly raped, tortured, beaten and forcibly deported when they become pregnant.
Testimony of a Sri Lankan woman interviewed in May 2011.
(Watch Latha's testimony on Youtube)
(The women's names have been changed to protect their safety. The "Anil" Ms. Latha is speaking about is her alleged rapist, Mr. Anil Santha, who is the general manager of the Classic Group of factories.)
"My request is that it doesn't matter who it is, but please bring some relief to what we suffer...Please help us. Help save the lives and innocent dreams of these workers. Please do something to have Anil removed so that the lives and hopes of other innocent girls are not destroyed further."
"He [Anil] summoned me to his office and made his demand, and warned me not to tell anyone... I was in a deeply helpless position because he is such a high-ranking figure in the factory I couldn't disobey him... There is so much sadness in me. So he asked me to come... I feel so exposed and shameful sharing what he did to me... the things that happened to me. And it wasn't only me, there were three or four other girls there too. He did this to us in the presence of one another... If any one of us either talked about this episode or did anything about it, the person would be immediately deported to Sri Lanka... What is tragic is that more and more girls arrive at the factory fresh and will continue to fall prey to this monster."
"My name is ‘Latha.' I work at Classic. I am speaking to you about the Manager of the place I work at. My attempt here is to inform you about the harassments he causes us. I only have God above to lament about this to. Though I had tried talking to others no good or solutions have come from it.
"By now I have completed a duration of one and half years working in this factory. I will now narrate to you certain thing I experienced and witnessed during this time period. While I will not quote anyone else, I will share my own experiences. I am considered quite attractive, and to have looks that make heads turn. And so, one day this dog Anil demanded that I come out one Friday to meet him. He told me to come at 10 and not to tell anyone. He summoned me to his office and made this demand and warned me not to tell anyone. Because I was intimidated by him, I didn't know what to do and couldn't disobey him. I was in a deeply helpless position because he is such a high ranking figure in the factory I couldn't disobey him. When I recall this I feel so helpless and the remorse sweeps over. I wish I could talk to someone but I cannot do so. There is so much sadness in me. So he asked me to come...um...I feel so exposed and shameful sharing what he did to me...the things that happened to me. And it wasn't only me, there were three to four other girls there too. I know them very well too. He did these [things] to us in the presence of one another. When we were leaving he shot all of us a stern warning that if anyone of us either talked about this episode or did anything about it the person would be immediately deported to Sri Lanka. I never in my life expected such repulsive behavior from him because he is old enough to be a father to us. He is that [much] older. For someone so mature and old as he, the way he treated us and molested us was impossible to comprehend. We are here because of our poverty. To be able to earn and save some money and go back to Sri Lanka. Our most important value is to protect our virtue. But it is such a misfortune that I feel like my life has been snuffed out. I only wish that I could have returned to Sri Lanka as pure as I had arrived. But now I am sullied.
"Every day the 12 hour shift ends by 8.30. But this person keeps the girls working till 9.30. Overall by the time we leave the factory it is about 10. Torments the working girls so much by keeping them working long. But there is no relief for us and we don't know who to turn to. Complaints fall on deaf ears. It is due to our impoverished conditions that we come to this country, to this work and fall prey to these sexual misdeeds. We would have protected ourselves, stayed in Sri Lanka and retained our virtues. But we don't come from families with means to support such ideal dreams, our parents are extremely poor, which is why girls like us come to these working conditions hoping to earn and save some money. Any attractive girl becomes the prey of this monster. As soon as he notices an attractive girl he summons that girl to his office and demands that she meets him out of work. Take them out and destroy their purity. He cannot return to Sri Lanka because apparently he has tainted his name/reputation in Sri Lanka. Some girls who returned to Sri Lanka had lodged entries/complaints in police stations-so there are warrants to arrest him upon his return.
"I will now describe harassments we receive in day to day working conditions. If girls cannot achieve the difficult targets given, if supervisors report that a worker has not met the daily target, he approaches the worker and beats and then takes them to his room. The girls who return from this abuse only cry their hearts out. They don't talk about details because they are too afraid to. Girls are terrorized by him. He is well established in this way within Classic. He has his support group within. There are some supervisors, in-charge officers-who are rewarded by his recommendations for promotions and salary increments. Certain attractive girls who become prey to him but don't go against him/or avoid him, receive promotions and pay hikes and extensions of contracts and so over time forget the abuse experienced at his hands and return to Sri Lanka but with their futures and purity destroyed, and unable to erase the memory of dwhat happened to them. This man's conduct is worse than a dog in my eyes. What is tragic is that more and more girls arrive at the factory fresh and will continue to fall prey to this monster. We need to stop the same circumstances repeating and the girls' lives harassed like this. They are unsuspecting, poor girls. It is far better to live in Sri Lanka and survive on one meal a day within their means than come here only to have their futures destroyed in the hands of this man. He claims that if he were sent away the factory would only close down. He thinks very highly of himself, though he is only a ruthless slave driver. There are plenty of other humane managers who don't play around with the lives of these innocent girls. Saman sir [Note: must be referring to factory owner Mr. Sanal] is determined to retain him. But he doesn't realize that the futures of innocent girls are at stake by retaining this man. We cannot let this continue, but the girls are helpless, there is nothing they can do to change these decisions. Girls are extremely vulnerable. Workers who went on strike earlier against Anil had their salaries slashed as a measure of preventing future actions. We are so helpless and vulnerable, with no one to turn to and give attention to our dire conditions. My request is that it doesn't matter who it is, but please bring some relief to what we suffer. Please save us from these circumstances. If there was something within our means to be done we would have tried it, but we are extremely vulnerable, and this is why I turn to you. Please help us. Help save the lives and innocent dreams of these workers. Please do something to have Anil removed so that the lives and hopes of other innocent girls are not destroyed. The modest dream of any girl who comes here is to save some money, improve the situation of their families back home, get married and have a family. But he destroys these dreams. They experience sexual harassment at his hands and return only with crushed dreams."
Follow-up interview with Latha in May 2011:
Ms. Latha was just 21 years old when she was repeatedly raped by Classic manager Anil Santha.
She started working at Classic sometime around November 2009. Anil Santha started raping her in April 2010. He raped her in his office, and then in a hotel. "Anil Santha sends a vehicle to pick us up for raping," she said, "one girl at a time. If a girl refuses to go, he gets her to the office, or she is deported the next day." It is extremely difficult for her and for the other young women to speak of these rapes. She was raped five or six times by Anil.
She worked 12 hours a day, including four hours of mandatory overtime. The young women were beaten if they made a mistake. "Anil beats them himself, she said, "if we make a mistake."
We asked her if anyone had tried to help her and the other young women who were being violated -for example, the Jordanian Ministry of Labor, or anyone else. She responded: "No one from the Jordanian Government. The Sri Lankan Government sends someone every six months or so. They ask about working conditions. But everyone is too scared to speak up."
"If Anil finds out about me [speaking to outsiders] I'll be in Sri Lanka the very next day" meaning, she would be forcibly deported by Anil under false charges.
Latha is from a poor family in the southwestern part of Sri Lanka. She has a younger sister. Now she is the main supporter of her family.
She had to pay approximately RD 50,000 (Sri Lankan Rupees-about $453 U.S.) for her contract to work at Classic. She would also have to pay for her round trip airfare.
It was only after she arrived in Jordan that she was warned by the other women of the horrible sexual abuse taking place at Classic. The women were in a trap, with no one to turn to for help.
Testimony of a Sri Lankan Woman Worker at Classic
Repeatedly raped, tortured and forcibly deported
when she became pregnant
(Interviewed in October 2010)
(Watch Kamala's testimony on YouTube)
"I was molested in every way... That man tortured me. He took a lot of sexual advantages from me... I had to fulfill everything he desired because I was placed in an extremely vulnerable situation and intimidated... My whole body is in pain... I cannot face my mother and father. I am destroyed. I cannot even change clothes before my mother because Priyantha has destroyed me. I have teeth marks all over my body.
"Priyantha destroyed me completely... I cannot take my own life because I am extremely poor. I am the only one to take care of my parents. This is why I came here [to Jordan].
"The reason I'm telling all this is because I don't want another young woman facing the same harassment and assaults that I did. What I appeal for is, whoever might listen to this, please make sure justice is served. Don't let another young woman face the molestation I faced when taken into a room."
(At the time of her repeated rapes, Ms. Kamala was working on Wal-Mart garments. The "alleged" rapist, Mr. Priyantha, was the quality control manager at Classic. Kamala heard repeatedly from Priyantha that other Classic managers, XXXX and XXXX, were also raping young women workers.)
** Two other managers were mentioned by names. However, it was hearsay, so we do not include the XXXXtwo managers' names in the report.
"Priyantha was working in my section. We refer to him as Priyantha sir. This man approaches me every day and harasses me. Doesn't let me be. Shouted at me a lot when he couldn't have his way initially. He imposed unachievable [production] targets to harass me. The man kept demanding that I go to a room with him. But I refused. The harassment and intimidation only increased as a result. And then I had to give in and go with him to a room. He took a lot of sexual advantages from me. I left Sri Lanka as a virgin, but I am returning today to Sri Lanka as an unclean woman...su
"I am completely destroyed. I have nothing more to lose. I cannot face my parents. I cannot take my own life because I am extremely poor. I am the only one to take care of my parents. This is why I came here [to Jordan]. Don't let any other young woman ever be destroyed the way I have been...
"I was molested in every way. I couldn't concentrate on work because I was psychologically and emotionally distraught... I had to fulfill everything he desired because I was placed in an extremely vulnerable situation and intimidated. My whole body is in pain. I have teeth marks on my body. That man destroyed me...
"I am going to Sri Lanka today. But it is not a happy return. I cannot face my mother or father. I am destroyed. I can't even change my clothes before my mother because Priyantha has destroyed me. I have teeth marks all over my body. Priyantha destroyed me completely...
"That man tortured me. What I wish is that God will punish him for all that he did to me...
"Don't let another young woman be destroyed in the way I was. Priyantha apparently has children of his own. I'm certain he must have children my age back home. He is old enough to be my father, yet he took me to a room and sexually molested me to no end. Please whoever is listening to this, don't let such people continue in this Classic [factory]. What I appeal for is don't let more young women be destroyed the way Priyantha destroyed me. I appeal, please don't let him continue here. He destroyed me. Completely shattered my life...
"Priyantha told me that all managers and top level officers are in support of his conduct. He told me names... XXXX knows everything apparently. We looked upon him as a father figure and treated him thus, but he was aware of all that was going on apparently. And every Friday, apparently XXXX takes young women to rooms or takes them to his house and destroys them. Priyantha told me this. Also the person XXXX, even though he is married because he is not with the wife, he too takes girls. And so does XXXX. Even though he is also married, he has destroyed the girls working in the factory.
"Priyantha destroyed me completely. XXXX, XXXX, they are all part of this. I hope that at least God punishes them for their vile acts. That's my only hope as I return to Sri Lanka today.
"XXXX, XXXX, Priyantha, there are more such managerial, high ranking persons. What they do is every Friday take young women from the factory and destroy them. Don't let their acts be repeated ever again...
"Truly my life is ruined. Today, I return to my mother and father not as a [virgin] girl. So I appeal, don't let other young women be destroyed like I was. The reason I am doing this video is because I want to safeguard the future of other young women. And also perhaps I'm not the only young woman that Priyantha and such as XXXX, XXXX destroyed. They may have destroyed a countless number of young women. So they might not remember who I am or which one I am, but God will ensure that they receive the punishment they deserve...
"Don't let any other young women ever be destroyed the way I have been. Even if a visa is granted to other factories, please don't allow young women a visa to this Classic. Don't let their destructive treatment of young women continue. Saman sir, Eviet sir all of them are aware of what is happening. This is what Priyantha told me every single time he took me to rooms. So please don't let such vile men continue in this place if more young women are brought to work in this factory. Don't let other young women be destroyed the way I was...
"Someone please provide us the assistance and give us justice. Priyantha, XXXX, XXXX...all these big shots are involved. Don't let them continue. Don't let them take advantage of the young women here.
"They come [to Jordan] because of their poverty to earn something and make some savings and uplift the condition of their families back home.
"I'm very sad. Today my life is shattered. I don't have a future. What I ask for is that please don't let another young woman face the terrible things I faced.
"I hope that at least God punishes them for their vile acts. That is my only hope as I return to Sri Lanka today...
"If whoever benefits from this statement, I could feel justified to some extent.
"Priyantha is a quality control manager."
Testimony of a 23 year old Sri Lankan woman
(Interviewed on Friday, May 27, 2011)
Q. "When did you begin working in the factory?"
A. "In 2009. The contract is for 3 years. I work at Classic #3."
Q. "How many hours do you work?"
A. "12 hours - from 7:30 in the morning."
Q. "Are you paid Overtime when you work the 12 hours?"
A. "We are entitled to OT [overtime pay], but if we fail to meet the day's target our OT is cut. We are supposed to work until the day's target is met."
Q. "I have to ask you a personal question. Have you ever been raped?"A. "Will I get into trouble for telling you? It has happened to me too. There is so much shame attached to it. There are others who have been raped too. But there is so much shame that we don't even discuss it with one another."
Q. "What would happen if you refused?"
A. "If we refuse, we are demoted, or our OT is cut. There will be some excuse to take revenge ["pali ganna"]. Sometimes if the girls in the line don't meet the targets they are beaten. He [Anil Santha] talks very roughly to us -‘vareng,' ‘palayang,' ‘karapang.' ["Come," "Go," "Do this,"-using the verb tense one would use to address a dog or a lowly servant.--Translator] Even on Fridays, our day off, when we go out we have to sign out and there is a curfew. On the following Saturday we are sent for and interrogated and scolded."
Q. "What garments do you sew?"
Q. "What labels do you sew on?"
A. "Danskin, Wal-Mart...[not understandable]"
Q. "[Wal-Mart] claims to send monitors to check on working conditions. Have you seen any of those monitors?"
A. "Yes, there have been monitors. They came twice. They come after notifying the management and then the management selects people to meet them in the office and prepares them on what to say to the monitors. Everyone is too scared to tell them the truth."
Q. "Has anyone from the Ministry of Labor in Jordan visited? "
A. "No. No one."
Q. "I noticed that you had gone to church today. Do you meet other Sri Lankans when you go?"
A. "There are Sri Lankans but I don't know them, and I'm afraid to tell them anything. We don't even discuss this among our own friends. There are many other women workers in other factories - Chinese, Bangladeshis. They don't seem to have the problems that we have. There are other girls like me. They may be willing to speak to you."
"Kanthi" works on Wal-Mart's "Danskin Now" label. The workers are sewing women's long and short pants of a knit fabric in black and gray, with pockets. The young women are allowed 16.81 minutes to complete each pair of pants, for which they are paid 21 cents. If the 70 workers in a production line do not reach their mandatory production goal of completing 3,000 pairs of "Danskin Now" pants in 12 hours, they will not be paid for their four hours of overtime. Women workers are also beaten for not reaching their goals.
Testimony of an Indian Female Worker at Classic
(Interviewed in February 2011)
Classic's General Manager, Anil Santha, has a Long Record
of alleged sexual harassment, abuse, beatings and rapes.
"When the Sri Lankan [Anil] enters onto the floor all women tremble with fear and everyone sits silent... He takes out women workers for sexual abuse... We protested his immoral activities and wanted him to get out of this factory."
"There is a manager who monitors all the Classic Group factories. His name is Anil and he is a friend of the owner of the Classic Group. He has been working for Classic for three years. What can I say - I feel shy to express - I have never seen such a bad man in my life...
"When the Sri Lankan [Anil] enters onto the floor all women tremble with fear and everyone gets silent. The other thing is that when Anil chooses a woman he sends her to another factory of the Classic Group, Unit #2 or Classic Unit #3. He takes her in his car to some place and later brings her back to the dorm. That woman does not work anymore and stays at the dorm. After two-three weeks we get to know that she has been deported to Sri Lanka. He takes out women workers for sexual abuse. When Anil takes any woman he takes her out of the factory on the pretext that he is transferring her to another Classic unit.
"Anil raped another woman worker named ["Ms. Inoka"] of Classic unit #1...and sent her back to Sri Lanka last June. In addition, Anil did the same with another Sri Lankan worker named [Ms. Jayanthi] at Classic unit #2 in March 2010. Oh, how can I express. If Anil sees any beautiful girl at the factory and chooses her, then he would like to have sex with her - he must do it at any rate. In my life I have never seen such a treacherous man.
"The workers went on strike for the bad character of Anil. [Over 2,400 Sri Lankan and Indian workers went out on strike on October 9th, 10th, and 11th in 2010.] He stalked women workers very often. When he needed any woman worker, he asked them to leave the floor of production line and go to his room. He sexually abused women in his room for fun. It is a matter of great shame. We protested his immoral activities and wanted him to get out of the factory. We said we do not [want to] see him at the factory and he has to leave the factory.
"The owner promised that he would send Anil back home and asked us to resume work.
"When Anil was sent out of the factory, we started working again at the factory.
"We started working at the factory after the strike. In the meantime the owner sent Anil to Bangladesh for recruiting new workers for his factory. After one month we noticed his [Anil's] return to the factory. The owner lied to us. He can't do work without Anil. He added, Anil is my friend, I can't let him go even if you quit the factory.
"Right after Anil returned from Bangladesh, "he deported 40 Sri Lankan and 20 Indian workers." [This was Anil's way of reestablishing his reign of terror.]
"There is another manager called Mr. Nygam. He is a very bad man. If women workers talk, he shouts at and beats them, and gets [deports] them out of the factory. Mr. Nygam is from Sri Lanka."
Testimony of Sri Lankan Woman Worker
(Interviewed February 2011)
Sexual Abuse and Death
"One girl died-last month on January 1, 2011. Her name was ["Soma"]. She was just 21 years old. She was one month pregnant. She told everyone it was the boyfriend's baby-Anil had told her not to utter a word-threatened her and also said he will give her money. The boyfriend had been devastated after her death and tried to hit Anil and was sent back [deported] to Sri Lanka......
"The women are taken by force regularly to a hotel. They are sometimes told they are being taken to another factory or they are accused of not making the target and they would be physically abused. Anil would make unwanted physical contact-touching the women's chests and bodies. Many of the women have video clips of what happened. Anil is not aware of that.
"The [sexual] abuse is still going on......
"Sometimes Anil would pick the women when they are walking on the road-deceive them-and take them to a hotel......
"Indian women are also touched-like the Sri Lankan women if they don't achieve [their] targets [production goals]......
"Workers are shouted at-yes-all the time with bad words......if the target is not achieved they are scolded and will be subject to the touching [fondling of the women's breasts and other body parts]"..."
Testimony of a Bangladeshi Woman
(Interviewed April 2011)
Preying on Young Women
"Yes, they are raped there...The ones that get pregnant,
they send back, and the ones that don't, they keep to work."
"His [Anil's] behavior is bad, very bad...He hits the Sri Lankan girls, and now the new Bangladeshi girls who have come, he is doing the same to them. [In September 2010, Classic management trafficked over 1,000 young Bangladeshi women, many just teenagers, to work at Classic #2 and #4 factories.]
"Already, he has taken new girls to his house in the last two to three days. Then he'll let them go to a flat in the next day or two...You know, the good looking girls that come, they have an attraction, a lust for them...even now there are two or three girls, Bengali girls, they are doing this to. First, they put on a good face, say nice things to the girls to get them to come with them, and the girls think, these are managers, they are in a foreign country, they don't know anything, they think what if the managers say something so they go...... Yes, they are raped there once they go. This has already happened to two or three girls-they sent two back to Sri Lanka and they have sent one Bengali back already, too, but they have kept it very quiet and nobody is investigating. The ones that get pregnant, they send back, and the ones that don't, they keep to work......
"I think they [Classic managers] have one girl in their house, a Sri Lankan girl, they've had her eight or nine months now......
"They hit the women all the time, they pull them up to the office and then abuse them......
"They work the girls much harder. That's all they want now, the women, the women they can make work longer hours......"
Sri Lanka's traditional society holds a woman's virtue in high esteem. A symbolic testimony of a young woman's virtue is her virginity on the first night of her marriage. There are customs woven into the marriage ceremony to maintain this traditional concept. On the day of her marriage, there is a ritual that is performed to invoke blessings on the bride and groom and during this ritual the couple stand on a slight platform as the various elements of the ritual is carried out. One important step is where the couple receives the blessings of both parties of parents and significant elders. Another important step in the ritual is when the groom presents to the bride a red or crimson colored sari (6 yards of cloth draped in a fashion) to be worn on the day she is brought to her matrimonial home. The color of the sari symbolizes the expectation that she is a virgin. So on the 'home coming' the bride is able to wear the red sari provided she proves her virginity on the first night of physical communion with her husband. The color 'red' of the sari symbolizes the breaking of her hymen. Unfortunately if a woman cannot prove her virginity, sometimes for physical reasons, she is treated as a soiled person, promiscuous and sometimes even sent back to her parents.
This practice is largely changing now and has changed, especially among the elite classes, upper middle classes and to a large extent among the lower middle classes. However, where arranged marriages are still the norm this custom continues. Most often times, young women who immigrate out of the country or migrate from rural to urban in search of better paying employment do so primarily with the expectations of saving enough money for a dowry and to make a few items of gold jewelry in order for them to become eligible for marriage. Other times, they do so because they want to improve the well being of their family. Young, unmarried women guard their virginity with so much care because it is one 'treasure' that they can proudly present to their husband and thereby receive the blessings and respect of their in-laws.
- Nirmi Vitarana
Indian male worker at Classic
(Interviewed the week of April 25, 2011)
Anil Santha, General Manager of the Classic Group,
is a Sexual Predator
"He [Anil] is a very rude man. His behavior with workers is not good...In the company everyone is afraid of him...I have seen with my own eyes. He is always accompanied by three to four females in the factory. I mentioned how he treats girls. If he likes any woman in the factory who is beautiful and young, he asks her to do body massage. He takes her to his office and home and asks them to serve him both by doing his domestic work as well as pleasing him sexually. He is involved with many women... The girls cannot complain. Anil is at a higher position in the company...and if girls refused to please him, he sends [forcefully deports] them back to their country......
"All the workers are complaining against him...The same is true with male [workers.] If Anil finds there is a threat from any male worker [speaking the truth about the rape and abuse of young women] he sends him back to his country......
"Women are being sexual harassed, and mostly by Anil."
Interview with a Sri Lankan Woman Worker
Ms. "Nirosha" worked in Classic Factory #4 as a quality controller. She could no longer stand the constant abuse, and returned to Sri Lanka in May 2009 after just one year of working at Classic.
"I have to say with regret that this is a place where there are many harsh and evil people working.
"They are always taking revenge on the workers......
"They also behave in a sexually offensive manner. When workers reject their unwelcome sexual advances, they throw "pieces" [clothing] at them. This has happened to me as well. I am telling you all this in hope that you would be able to provide us some relief. After witnessing and hearing about their immoral behaviors, I have no respect for these people. Even though I am going back home, the other workers who would remain should have the opportunity to work happily.
"I work at the quality control division. How can we work, when one has to listen to filthy language and witness filthy things constantly......
"I forgot to mention another person's name, in charge of packing: Mr. Anase. He is also a person to recall very regretfully. His hobby is to touch women's body parts and look at them. If you have to work with this kind of person, you end up going back to Sri Lanka different from the way you left. So please, I humbly request you to be sympathetic to our situation and try your best abilities to take some appropriate steps to help us."
Egyptian, Sri Lankan, Indian, Bangladeshi and Nepalese workers
Denounce Sexual Abuse of Young Women Workers and Cruel and Inhumane Treatment at Classic
Have Sex with the Boss or Be Fired
Letter in Arabic from Egyptian Worker at Classic
"The manager of the factories mistreats the Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi women workers and forces them to go out with him [Anil]. And if they don't go out with him [have sex with him], he punished them by fabricating an accusation; so that the factory terminates their contract and deports them back to their country...This is a manager incapable of managing.
"A number of [female] workers disappeared since Friday, January 25, 2011. Until now, no one knows anything about them. We suspect that the manager named Anil is responsible for their disappearance, he is the last one to know their whereabouts."
Women Beaten at Classic
Suffer Cruel and Inhuman Treatment
Interview with a Classic Worker
"Certainly, workers have been summoned to the office, yelled at using profanities, physically pushed, the face grabbed by the cheeks and jerked left and right. When damage [a mistake] is discovered, the clothing article is hurled at the worker, and he/she is asked to stand for hours on end in one spot as punishment. On occasions workers have fainted due to the strain of standing......
"Supervisors and management hurl profanities and abusive language and treatment towards workers. Also workers have been beaten and sent back to their home countries. And sometimes sent to the room and restrained there for several days. Right through this month [February 2011] workers are being deported for not reaching [their] production goal."
Interview with a Sri Lankan Male Worker
"The workers-especially women-are beaten are shouted at at work...
"When women report their problems, managers will say that they have to sleep with them in order to get the facilities...
"Some of them approach the girls romantically, promising love and promising not to shout at or hit them at work to get them to have sex with them..."
[This man knew of five cases of rape.]
Appeal for Help
"The Girls Are Not Cared for at All"
Interview with a Sri Lankan Woman Worker, Ms Nayani
"My name is Nayani. They take beautiful girls into rooms, make them become pregnant, [they] send them off to Sri Lanka...Invite to go to rooms and in there beat me. The girls are not cared for at all......"
Letter from Workers at Classic Group
"We must kindly request you to understand the situation in this factory and try to bring some justice to all our workers."
"Mr. Anil is the manager of Classic Group. He treats the workers badly and does not hesitate to hit/assault them."
"Though we managed to remove him from Classic [during the strike of October, 2010] he has returned and the environment in Classic is back to what it used to be."
"He uses the women to satisfy him sexually."
"He would beat women and send them away as he desires......"
"The floor-in-charge manager, Mr. Roshak, is the one who would bring Bangladeshi women to Mr. Anil for sex."
Fear and Dread
An Appeal for Help
Letter from Sri Lankan Workers
"We hope your attention will be drawn toward these unfair deeds. We ask that you keep this information confidential and protect our identities. Otherwise we fear we may have to suffer under Mr. Anil's cruel attacks. As the entire work force fears his torments, nobody is willing to come forward and talk about these events openly."
Testimony of Ms. "Sriyani"
(Interviewed in October 2010)
"Suminda is the manager. [He] would harass the girls on a daily basis with unachievable targets to reach, yelling, using profanities, would even beat at times. Suminda took a girl one day. We don't know what happened to her. If we try talking to him about OT [overtime work] we get yelled at in filth.
There are young women from [Sri] Lanka, Nepal, India and Bangladesh. Management does a lot of wrongful things, but no one is there to take them to task or monitor them. Suminda sir does a lot of misdeeds. No one holds him accountable or monitors him. He gets away with anything he does. He yells, beats girls as he pleases, fires them as he pleases for reasons he finds..."
"I write this short introduction to you esteemed sir because there is nobody who will come forward on our behalf. I have in my heart that you will direct your kind eyes towards us to solve these difficulties we are going through. Also, the secrecy of this is with you. I, the one writing this letter, am working as a female..."
As a female worker of Classic organization, I am preparing to inform the esteemed Sir a short description of what is happening in this organization.
I have completed one year in this organization. During this period, the following is a description of what the difficulties I have undergone myself as well as the other girls who work here. First,
The biggest problem that the women working here are facing is the factory Manager working here: Mr. Suminda. He is using filthy language on the male and female workers to increase the production. Secondly,
I am not aware of too much problems for the male and female workers of this organization. The female workers of this organization are doing their work very eagerly. However there is one problem. That being the Factory Manager: Mr. Narayan. He is a Tamil and the female workers have been subjected to a lot of harassment by him. Thirdly,
Out of the four organizations the workers here are the ones working in the saddest conditions. For the male and female workers of this place the greatest headache is the production Manager - Mr. Chinthaka. There has never been a day when he has ever spoken to the young women kindly.
He curses them in such harsh language. To get his production up he will not restrain from any kind of torture to the young workers. Also for about a month there is a factory manager, Mr. Anil. There is nothing not known about him. There is so much torture that he inflicts on the young women. I believe that it is not very important to inform you about what he is doing. Because I know that you know about him more than me. Fourthly,
This organization consists mostly with Bangladesi male and female workers and Sri Lankan young women are only a limited number such as 50. Of this there are three machine operators. All others are quality controllers.
For them the biggest problem are Q.A manager :- Mr Priyantha.
Packing in charge Mr Anash,
Packing Q.A supervisor - Mr Priyantha.
These people, they harass the young women very much. If the production goes down, they highly value [demand] work on Friday or on the night shift. If there is "damage," they beat the female workers who produced them by throwing those articles at them and use harsh language on them. By these methods the female workers are subjected to mental agony and thereafter they are not able to continue their work in a proper manner.
Sri Lankan workers at Classic say there have been over 300 complaints against Mr. Anil Santha filed with the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau.
An article on the October 2010 strike at the Classic factory appeared in "Truth First" (www.adaderana.lk) news. The chairman of the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau stated that the strike was the "result of a clash between the Sri Lankans and a group of Indonesian workers in the factory." This is completely false. There are no Indonesian workers at Classic, there never have been and there was no struggle among the workers.
Over 2,400 Sri Lankan and Indian workers at Classic went out on strike on October 9, 10 and 11, 2010, primarily demanding the ouster of Classic's general manager, Mr. Anil Santha, who the workers repeatedly accused of sexual harassment, abuse and rape. Anil would also beat workers and forcibly deport them at will.
The article continues... "The workers had today (Oct 10) resumed the strike demanding that a supervisor (a Sri Lankan) too be transferred. When employers acceded to this too, the workers demanded that the supervisor's [Anil's] transfer was not enough, but he should be sent back to Sri Lanka, said Mr. Ranawaka." Mr. Kingsley Ranawaka is the chairman of the government's Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE).
Within an hour of the appearance of the article, titled "Jordanian Police Teargas Striking Lankans," five people-including workers at Classic-had blogged on their fear and hatred of Anil Santha. (The following comments are reproduced as they appear, including some grammatical errors. These are poor, but very smart and courageous Sri Lankan guest workers employed at the Classic factory in Jordan, struggling to express themselves in English.)
- One worker wrote, "...more than 300 has recoded in foreign employee bureau against him. His name is Anil and all over the Jordan knows how bad he is handling the workers."
- Another worker states, "he is shouting at workers, hitting female workers. Anil sir....that much bad person."
- "...All Sri Lankan, Indian and Bangladeshi workers are demanding to send back that factory manager [Anil Santha.] He has very bad reputation with the workers because of his unacceptable working attitudes. He is very famous for harassing workers in Dubai and Jordan."
- "...he has very bad record against the workers and always physically harassing the female workers, abusing girls..."
ARTICLE: "Jordanian police teargas striking Lankans" October 10, 2010 05:56 pm
The Jordanian police had resorted to the use of tear gas to quell an unruly protest by Sri Lankans at a factory there today, said the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau (SLBFE).
Though the initial work stoppage by around 3,000 Sri Lankan workers in the Jordanian factory had been called off, a dispute this morning had created a tense atmosphere.
The work stoppage had begun as a result of a clash between the Sri Lankans and a group of Indonesian workers in the factory. The Sri Lankans had demanded that the Indonesians be transferred from the factory and later the owners had agreed to the demands and the strike called off, according to SLBFE chairman Kingsley Ranawaka.
However, the workers had today (Oct. 10) resumed the strike demanding that a supervisor (a Sri Lankan) too be transferred. When employers had acceded to this too, the workers had demanded that the supervisor's transfer was not enough, but he should be sent back to Sri Lanka, said Mr. Ranawaka.
With the agitation getting worse, the factory owners had called the police who had used tear gas to disperse the unruly strikers, added the SLBFE chairman.
October 10, 2010 06:45 pm
October 10, 2010 06:50 pm
October 10, 2010 07:01 pm
October 10, 2010 07:12 pm
October 11, 2010 11:46 pm
Lankan employees strike in Jordan called off, Suraj A Bandara
The Foreign Employment Bureau said that the strike started by Sri Lankan employees working at the Classic Fashion Garments factory in Jordan was called off and its Manger's service has been suspended by the Garment factory owners with immediate effect.
The strike started against the manager of the garment factory by the employees a few days ago. They demanded from the employer to remove the manager from the factory. The factory owners had agreed to the demands after negotiations with Sri Lankan embassy officials in Jordan and employees involved in the strike.
Jordanian police fired tear gas on Sri Lankan workers after they threw stones damaging police vehicles and injuring police officers following a dispute at the garment factory. Some employees were injured as a result .
Nearly 2,140 Sri Lankan employees work at Classic Fashion Apparel.
National Labor Committee report
"Three Thousand Worker Strike in Jordan Sewing for Wal-Mart and Other Companies"
December 14, 2007
Two young Sri Lankan women raped in Jordan factory
Sewing clothing for Wal-Mart and other companies
At least two young women from Sri Lanka, recruited as foreign guest worker to work at the Classic Apparel Factory in the Al Hassan Industrial Park in Jordan, report being raped by managers at the factory. The women sewed clothing for Wal-Mart and other companies."
"The victims, both assaulted early in 2007, are [a Sri Lankan woman] and [‘Latha']."
"Latha" was raped by Mr. Anil, a manager at the Classic factory. After becoming noticeably pregnant, she was deported back to Sri Lanka.
A Sri Lankan woman reports being raped by another factory manager, Mr. Chinthaka (Sintaika). The workers report that, receiving no help from Jordanian authorities, The Sri Lankan woman filed a court suit against Mr. Anil in Sri Lanka. Apparently Mr. Anil has had to make several trips to Sri Lanka to deal with the suit against him.
Over 2,400 Sri Lankan and Indian women and men led a three-day strike on October 9, 10 and 11, 2010 to oust Mr. Anil from the Classic Group of factories. Women workers, especially young women, were terrified when Anil entered into their factory, claiming that he routinely harassed and threatened the women, groping them and demanding they have sex with him. Every single worker in Classic can attest to their fear and hatred of Anil for his cruelty and violation of young girls and women. The workers said point blank that if Anil stays they would not work.
What is truly disturbing is that Jordanian Ministry of Labor officials from Amman and the local MOL office in Al Hassan made several visits during the strike. This means MOL officials knew exactly how Anil, Priyantha and possibly others had been preying on vulnerable young women for years. In fact, Sri Lankan and Indian workers had given both Classic's owner, Mr. Sanal Kumar, and Ministry of Labor officials letters in which the workers documented the gross violations they suffered at the hands of Anil.
Along with being a sexual predator, Anil is also a bully, constantly shouting, cursing, threatening and beating the workers. Within the Classic Group, Anil was the "dictator," with the power to forcibly deport workers at will on fabricated charges. In this way he had the power to destroy the lives of the workers, who had gone into debt in their home countries to purchase their three-year contracts to work in Jordan.
It was also Anil who pioneered the late payment of workers' wages. Workers are routinely paid three weeks late, receiving their previous month's wages between the 20th and 25th of the following month. Workers are demanding to be paid during the first week of the following month.
Anil also pioneered the "toilet pass" system, limiting workers to two bathroom visits a day. With just one or two toilet passes for each production line, workers had to wait-often for long periods of time-for a pass to become available. Bathroom visits were limited to two minutes, and any worker returning even a few seconds late was cursed at and humiliated.
On October 11, 2010, Mr. Sanal, Classic's owner, told the workers he would terminate Anil if the workers would return to work. The workers agreed and returned to their factories to begin working. But Sanal was lying. He sent Anil to Bangladesh for a month to recruit a new batch of young women to work at Classic. (Sending a sexual predator to recruit innocent teenaged girls and young women and take them to Jordan borders on sex trafficking.) When Anil returned a month later, the workers were stunned. Sanal explained that Anil is "my friend" and "I cannot manage the factories without him." If the workers did not like it-they were free to leave!
This was not the first time Anil had been temporarily sent out of Jordan due to gross sexual abuses. It also happened in 2008. No matter how many young women he tortured and abused, neither the factory owner, nor the Ministry of Labor, Wal-Mart or Hanes, whose clothing was sewn at Classic, were able to control Anil.
It gets even worse. It appears that the Ministry of Labor was aware of the claimed sexual harassment, abuse and rapes at Classic as early as 2007, and did nothing.
In December 2007, Classic workers struck over management's unilateral decision to start deducting 20 JD--$28.20-per month from the workers' wages for food. The workers recorded on their cell phones a meeting with Classic's owner, Sanal, an MOL labor inspector, Mr. Munir, and an officer from the Bangladesh Embassy, Mr. Nazrul Huda.
Mr. Huda of the Bangladesh Embassy stated, "If you have any problems in accommodations, food, working environment and the treatment of the management these can be raised. If anyone misbehaves, tries to beat workers, or if they torture you mentally-we will be able to take action against them by sitting with Mr. Sanal. Mr. Munir [MOL] told me that he has evidence of detailed information about your factory regarding unethical and immoral activities at your factory."
This appears to be an allusion is an allusion to the sexual assaults and rape of young women. Yet the Ministry of Labor did nothing!
There is another serious breach in the credibility of the Ministry of Labor. The Ministry has told us repeatedly that it is "legal" for factory owners to charge guest workers for their food costs-despite the fact that their work contracts specifically stipulated that all food would be free-as long as the workers "agreed" to management's request. At Classic, the workers never agreed to management's unilateral decision to cut their wages to cover the cost of the terrible food they received. If the Ministry of Labor was doing its job, all the workers at Classic would be due back wages for the deductions illegally taken from them.
Classic Fashion Apparel Industry
Al Hassan Industrial Estate
...At least two young women from Sri Lanka, recruited as foreign guest workers to work at the Classic Fashion Apparel factory in the Al Hassan Industrial Park in Jordan, report being raped by managers at the factory. The women sewed clothing for Wal-Mart and other companies.
The victims, both assaulted early in 2007, are Ms. Nisansala and Ms. Nine Maris.
Ms. Nine Maris was raped by Mr. Anil, a manager at the Classic factory. After becoming noticeably pregnant, she was deported back to Sri Lanka. Ms. Nisansala reports being raped by another factory manager, Mr. Sintaiker [Chinthaka].
(The two rape victims were fired and forcibly deported to Sri Lanka. Classic was producing clothing for Wal-Mart, Hanes and Gloria Vanderbilt.)
Source: "Three Thousand Workers Strike in Jordan sewing for Wal-Mart and other companies"
National Labor Committee, December 14, 2007
We received this hand-written letter in rudimentary English from a Bangladeshi worker at Classic in September 2007. He speaks of a dangerous factory manager who made five girls pregnant and then forcibly deported them back to Sri Lanka.
Prear [Prayer] for our Factory Problems
Our factrys manazar [manager] very danger [dangerous] make 5 garls [girls] pagnat. Aftar [After] pacto [sent back to] tha Sri Lanka...."
This is just another cry from the workers that Classic management was sexually abusing young Sri Lankan women in 2007.
Moreover, the company illegally cut the workers' wages, forcibly deducting 20 JD ($28.20) a month for food, which their work contract clearly stated would be free. Nor did Classic provide medical care, which was also guaranteed in their contracts. The writer also reports that the workers are not being paid their legal overtime and have to work through public holidays.
(This letter was sent to the National Labor Committee-now the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights.)
Bangladeshi Woman Groped
"We went to bed and to sleep. There are two rooms for Bengalis on this floor. Most of the Sri Lankan workers live here. It was around 12:00 midnight. The owner of the dorm (Mr. Haitem) and the nephew of the factory owner (Matthew) came here. ...Very often we hear the voice of men at 12:00-1:00-2:00 a.m. at the dorm. Haitem pushed workers into the room. I asked him why he entered the women's room. He touched the women's bodies and pushed them inside the room. We fell and were injured. They broke the door. He first attacked me. He touched women workers' bodies. Sir, we are Bengali.-We feel shy. We cannot express full details, but he touched our sensitive organs of our bodies. We are terrified. My dress was torn from this."
--Interview with Bangladeshi women in Classic dorm, January 2008.
Also, on December 14, 2007, we received a report from Classic workers that: "There are two managers named Anil and Surminda [Suminda is the correct name]. -They raped two women workers... One Sri Lankan woman got pregnant and had to abort, as she was forced to have sex with a manager."
"There was a visit by the Labor Ministry and workers were interviewed individually during which they made statements about the issues at the factory. And these were recorded and noted down by officers from the Labor [Ministry]. But there is no improvement in the circumstances faced by us. They are bribed by the company and so they don't proceed with the investigation. We have informed all these agencies of our plight and circumstances, to no avail. The abusive treatment and exploitive working conditions just continue with business as usual."
Sri Lankan women workers at Classic #2
"We tried to end [the abuses]. When the MOL [Ministry of Labor] officials visited the factory, the management people stood beside us. When we tell the truth, the management people note down our ID number. Later the workers face enormous problems. This is the reason workers are hesitant to complain or tell the truth in front of management. The management people bribe MOL. As a result the MOL does not take any steps to resolve any problems. Rather, if any worker makes any complaint to the MOL, the official refers it to factory management and gives the ID card and name of the worker for retribution. The MOL joins hands with management."
Indian woman worker at Classic
"Even though we complained to the [Ministry of] Labor, it was not productive. When the Labor [inspectors] arrived, our women were scared to talk because they might lose their jobs. We are sad to say that this is the way they factory keeps our mouths shut."
Letter from Classic workers
"No. No one in Jordan has helped. Not the MOL. No one."
Sri Lankan woman worker at Classic
The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights (formerly the National Labor Committee) has been reporting on the rape of young women workers in Jordan since 2005, when the guest workers contacted us desperately seeking help. Our reports were always shared with the Jordanian Ministry of Labor and with U.S. government agencies involved in overseeing the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement, but we have never received any response regarding the allegations of rape and severe sexual harassment.
Young Woman Raped - Hangs Herself
Al Safa Garments Industrial LLC
Al Hassan Industrial Estate, Jordan
"A young woman from Bangladesh, no more than 20 years of age, hung herself in early February 2005 after-allegedly-being raped by a factory manager. She hung herself in a bathroom using her scarf. It seems that her body was not immediately returned to Bangladesh, but remained in a locker at a local morgue for at least several months. To date we know of no official investigation into her rape and death."
(Al Safa produced clothing for Gloria Vanderbilt, Target and Kohl's.)
Source: U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement Descends into Human Trafficking and Involuntary Servitude, National Labor Committee, May 2006
Sixteen-year-old Girl Raped
Western Factory (2005/2006)
Al Hassan Industrial Estate, Jordan
SEXUAL ABUSE OF YOUNG WOMEN: It is very difficult for the women workers to speak of their being sexually abused. It is so painful and humiliating. But also, the stigma of such abuse can destroy any hope of marriage and a decent future. But several young women, in their anger and despair, were willing to confide in their Bangladeshi colleagues. At least four young women have been sexually abused by Western managers, including a 16 year-old girl. The other women were in their early twenties. Managers would pick out the most attractive young women and offer them the false promise of a better job, higher wages, less work, and so on. They would also tell the girls they wanted to take them on a day trip, so they could see how beautiful Jordan was. Once in the car, they would drive them to a hotel and force themselves on the young women. The women were powerless. Stripped of their passports and with nowhere to turn, they were completely vulnerable to abuse. No one in Jordan had ever helped them, not once. There was no one to turn to, even to report the abuse. So they just went back to work, crushed.
(Western produced clothing for Wal-Mart and Kohl's.)
U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement Descends into Human Trafficking and Involuntary Servitude, NLC, May 2006
Source: "Behavioral Evidence: Understanding Motives and Developing Suspects in Unsolved Serial Rapes Through Behavioral Profiling Techniques" by Brent E. Turvey, June 1996
The Sri Lankan workers at Classic are very clear. "Anil is good friends with Sanal," they told us. And, "They both get together to do all this." By "this" they mean tolerating the widespread sexual harassment, rape and torture of young women working at Classic; the routine beatings and humiliation; the forcible deportation of any worker who asks for their rights; forced overtime while being shortchanged of legal wages, and so on.
It can be proven that Sanal Kumar is well aware that Anil is a sexual predator and serial rapist. In October 2010, over 2,400 Sri Lankan and Indian workers went on strike, demanding that Anil be fired and returned to Sri Lanka-where he would hopefully be charged and tried for his crimes. Sanal knew this was serious and that he had to respond. Sanal gave his word that Anil was leaving Jordan and would not return. The strikers immediately went back to work.
But they had been tricked. Sanal sent Anil to Bangladesh to recruit young Bangladeshi women to work at Classic. A month later, Sanal welcomed Anil back to Classic.
At a Minimum, Workers Are at the Factory 78 Hours a Week.
All Overtime is Compulsory
On Thursday, May 19, workers were forced to work an 18 ½-hour shift,
From 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. the following morning.
"The workday begins at 7:00 a.m., until 8:30 at night. Despite that, we don't get compensated for working such long hours. The manager demands high productivity beyond the capabilities of individual workers. Despite all that, if the workers does not complete his work completely, the manager punishes her and starts yelling at her in front of everyone. He also disrespects the worker and then starts mistreating her. That's how the manager treats the factory worker, whether they are from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indians or Arabs!
"It is the right of every worker everywhere [to have a day off]. This factory manager makes people work Fridays [the Muslim holiday] from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 at night.
"For the official holidays that apply to the Jordanians, like the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad and the New Year, the Jordanians get the day off. But the rest of the foreign workers don't get any time off, despite it being an official holiday that applies to everybody, whether they are Arabs or Foreigners."
- Arab workers at Classic
As recently as October 2010, Classic workers were required to toil a 99 ½ hour workweek. For five days, from Saturday through Wednesday, the mandatory shift was 15 hours, from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Then on Thursday, to get Friday "off," the workers had to work a grueling 24 ½ hour shift, from 7:30 a.m. straight through to 8:00 a.m. the following morning.
Even at the beginning of 2011 the workers told us: "The regular shift ends at 8:30 p.m., but we had to work until 9:30 p.m., 10:00 p.m., 10:30 p.m., depending on the orders of management... We work three Fridays a month. The last Friday of the month is usually a day off. When we work on Fridays, we have to work until 5:00 p.m.... There is no Friday off a month before shipments have to go out, then we work all days."
Almost everything in Classic's "Code of Conduct"-which is supposed to guarantee compliance with all local and international worker rights standards, is a flat-out lie. The same can be said of the contract Classic management signs with the workers, which guarantees that all overtime will be "100 percent voluntary." We know 4,800 Classic workers, who-if they were not being threatened with beatings or forcible deportation-would attest to the fact that all overtime is 100 percent compulsory.
At a minimum, workers are at the factory 78 hours a week
For the last several months, Classic has cut back to a standard 13-hour shift, from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., six days a week. On average, workers must also toil one or two Fridays a month, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. In the past, the workers received just one day off a month.
If they work six days a week, the workers are at the factory 78 hours a week, while working 72 hours, including 24 hours of mandatory overtime.
There are three breaks, totaling an hour, in the 13 hour shift:
- 15 minutes for tea: 9:30 a.m. - 9:45 a.m.
- 30 minutes for lunch: 12:30 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
- 15 minutes for tea: 6:00 p.m. - 6:15 p.m.
However, "managers ‘we want to see the workers at the factory at 7:00 a.m.'" This is especially true of the young women, who have to leave their dorms at 6:30 a.m. in order to walk to the factory and arrive at 7:00 a.m. The workers do not get paid for arriving early, and it makes for a long day, leaving their dorms at 6:30 a.m. and not arriving home until 9:00 p.m.
An 18 ½ hour shift before shipments must leave for the U.S.
On Thursday, May 19, at least one-third of Classic's workers had to toil an 18 ½ hour shift, from 7:30 a.m. Wednesday morning to 2:00 a.m. on Thursday in order to meet the shipment deadline. Beginning on Saturday, May 14, these workers were at the factory 88 ½ hours, while actually working 82 hours, including 34 hours of mandatory overtime. Currently, everyone is working a 14-hour shift, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. as other shipment dates loom.
In Classic Factory IV, starting on May 31, the Finishing section has been working 16-hour shifts, from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Guest Workers paid 74 ½ cents per hour
No wage increase in the last 5 years
Workers who fail to reach their mandatory production goal will not be paid for their overtime hours
"Whenever I get [my] salary my eyes are filled with tears. For the whole month they make me work hard and in the end of our getting nothing is compared to the work they asked me to do."
-- Indian worker
The regular wage for guest workers in Jordan's garment factories has not been raised in the last five years. The minimum wage is 110 JD (Jordanian Dollars) a month, or $155.10.
74.5 cents an hour
$5.87 a day (8 hours)
$35.79 a week (48 hours)
$155.10 a month
$1,061.20 a year
Not only has there been no wage increase over the last five years, but inflation in Jordan has cut the real minimum wage by one third. (The compounded inflation rate in Jordan from May 2006 through May 2010 is 33.6 percent.)
The guest workers are in Jordan for only one reason, which is to send money home to their families in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, and other countries. In each of these countries as well, inflation has been soaring over the last five years, with the compounded inflation rate rising to 83% in Sri Lanka; 43.6% in Bangladesh; and 40% in India. The guest workers in Jordan are working harder and taking more loans, while earning less, as they slide backwards.
The guest workers took another major hit when Classic and other factories composed a unilateral education of 20 JD, or $28.20, per month to cover food costs, which cut the workers' wages by another 18 percent. It did not matter at all that the three-year contracts the workers purchased to work in Jordan -at great cost to themselves-guaranteed that all food costs would be free of charges. The Ministry of Labor in Jordan came up with some fabricated excuse, saying that the wage deduction for food was "legal" if the workers voluntarily agreed to it. Of course, no workers in their right mind would voluntarily agree to cut 18 percent of their wages. The deduction was flat out imposed by wealthy factory owners like Mr. Sanal at Classic.
Many Classic workers have recently confirmed to us that if they do not reach their mandatory daily target, a production goal, they will not be paid for all of the four hours overtime they are forced to work each day. "This could happen two or three times a week," they said.
On average, the workers say they can earn 150 JD to a maximum of 180 JD per month. After the illegal deduction for food, of 20 JD per month, and the 6.5 JD deduction for social security, the workers can take home from 123.5 JD, or $174.14, to 153.50 JD, or $216.44 per month. Including overtime, working "just" 72 hours a week, the guest workers at Classic are earning at most 56 to 69 cents an hour.
Classic Increases Sales by 6,000 Percent!
Brilliant Business Model Based on The Anatomy of Exploitation
Over the last seven years the Classic Group of Factories in Jordan increased its sales by 6,000 percent, from $2 million in 2003 to a whopping $120 million by the end of 2010. It amounts to an average of 857 percent sales increase each year!
How did Mr. Sanal Kumar, Classic's owner, accomplish such a feat?
First, some background before we get into the details. The United States has a Free Trade Agreement with Jordan which allows garments made in Jordan to enter the U.S. duty free. This saves the giant retailers like Wal-Mart and Hanes a lot of money, since average tariffs-on pants for example-can reach 16.7 percent without the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement.
Secondly, 85 percent of Sanal Kumar's workers at Classic are foreign guest workers from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India and some from Egypt and Nepal. The vast majority are young women, 18 to 25 years of age. The 15 percent of Classic's workforce who are Jordanians work eight hours a day and earn a base wage of $211.50 a month. The foreign guest workers toil a minimum of 12 hours a day, earn a take home base wage of $126.90 per month-61 cents an hour-which is 40 percent less than the Jordanian workers earn.
Production Goals Double While Wages Remain the Same
This is Classic management's most important business plan. Production goals are soaring at Classic as guest workers are forced to toil twice as fast without a single cent increase in wages.
Over the last four years, mandatory production goals at the Classic Group of Factories have doubled. In 2007, the mandatory production goal was to complete 1,200 pairs of Wal-Mart jeans in the standard 12-hour shift with 58 sewing operators on each line. Four years later, the production goal for the same Wal-Mart jeans had been unilaterally increased to 2,400 pairs in the standard 12-hour shift with 58 sewers.
In 2007, workers were allowed 34.8 minutes to complete each pair of jeans, for which they were paid 43.5 cents. (1,200 jeans ÷ 12 hours = 100 jeans/hour; 100 jeans/hour ÷ 58 sewers = 1.724 jeans per sewer per hour; 60 minutes ÷ 1.724 = 34.8 minutes; 34.8 minutes = 58% of an hour; 58% of 74.5 cents/hour base wage = 43.5 cents per pair of pants.)
Four years later, in 2010, the mandatory production goal for the Wal-Mart jeans was unilaterally raised to 2,400 pairs of jeans in the same 12 hour shift with the same 58 sewing operators on each line. Now the sewers are allowed just 17.4 minutes to sew each pair of jeans. Production goal doubled while workers' wages remained exactly the same. (2,400 jeans ÷ 12 hours = 200 jeans per hour; 200 ÷ 58 sewers = 3.448 jeans per hour and 21.6 cents per pair of jeans they sew.) So, the workers are now paid just 21.6 cents for each pair of jeans they sew.
This has much less to do with a brilliant business model than with the increased exploitation of guest workers who have no rights and no voice.
Other Tricks of the Trade
Every Little Bit Adds Up
- Classic management withholds the workers' wages. For example, workers will not receive their pay for the month of May until the third or fourth week in June.
- Workers who fail to reach their mandatory production goal in the standard 12-hour shift will be shortchanged of their proper overtime pay. Workers say this can happen two or three times a week.
- Bathroom use is strictly limited during working hours. Workers need permission and must wait their turn-which can take hours-to receive an available "toilet pass" to use the bathroom. Bathroom visits are limited to two minutes.
- Classic managers routinely curse at and berate the workers, using language typically reserved for "slaves or dogs."
- Women are whipped with garments or hit by managers-especially the general manager Anil-if they make a mistake or fall behind their obligatory production goal.
- The next step for women failing to reach their production goal is to be publically humiliated, as managers touch and grope the women, fondling their breasts.
- The final step for workers not meeting their production goal is termination and forcible deportation back to their home country.
Take Ms. Asma, a Bangladeshi woman garment worker entered Jordan in November 6, 2010, after purchasing her three-year contract to work at Classic. From the beginning, she faced constant pressure, humiliation, shouting, cursing and having garments thrown in her face. During the 12-hour shift she had to complete 2400 operations, or one piece every 18 seconds. On average, she could complete 1,700 operations in the 12 hours, or one every 25 seconds. She was seven seconds behind in her target, so Ms. Asma was deported on May 3, 2011.
Ms. Falina (Classic card #14511) was sent to her dorm room when she did not meet her production goal. All the workers say that management set excessive targets which cannot be routinely met. After being held for a few days, Ms. Falina was forcibly deported along with 35 other Classic women workers sometime in the last quarter of 2010.
Classic managers shout at the male workers and sometimes shove them. But with the women, they are yelled at, slapped, beaten, groped and humiliated.
"Workers are being deported right through this month [February] for not reaching their production goal," one woman told us, "Indian women are also touched, like the Sri Lankan women, if they don't reach their targets."
"But the biggest problem is the director. His favorite thing is that when he sees a pretty girl, he makes a pass at her, he looks at her (ogles her), and then he starts to talk about everything. The problem is that he is the director, but he yells, gets mad, and hits the workers, regardless of the workers' nationalities."
"I am a worker in the Jordash factory [Classic 2]. The treatment in this factory is unacceptable and the treatment of the manager is unfair...he does not give the workers any time off or any of their rights. He always yells at workers because he wants productivity without any breaks. And if is time for prayer, he does not let the workers pray, only work. Break/rest time is short, and one has to work 24 hours without a break. And if one has to go to the bathroom, the manager gives the worker only two minutes. If one [takes longer] than two minutes, he yells at the worker or he deducts [money] from their paycheck. And he makes the Arabs, Indians, Sri Lankans and Bangladeshis work extra time without any pay. He always yells at everyone. And if a worker is ill and misses a day, even if the worker brings an excused absence, he [the manager] takes it out of his pay.
"...if the worker does not meet his/her quota (production target), he [the manager] deducts the time out of their paycheck, and he yells at them, and curses and insults them.
"...and he humiliates them like they don't count except as machines that must work and produce.
"...and if any errors happen, the manager calls you, and he deducts money from your wages, or give you a warning, or fires you from the job.
"By the way, when someone visits the factory, like a director or general manager, they start yelling, and they start cleaning and fixing up the factory. And he tells them the workers that if someone asks, to say that the factory is good, and the treatment is good, and everything is perfect. Meaning, they pressure the worker until he says things that are not true and unacceptable and lies because the problems all stem from the manager who demands everything by force and he treats the workers like ignorant animals. He also controls all their actions and hits them."
(Interviews carried out over six months, December 2010 through May 2011)
Factory Conditions at Classic Unit #2
"The factory smells from bad hygiene, revolting smells, dust, and rats that have spread throughout the factory, and cats and cockroaches that have affected the workers' health."
"Throughout the day, there is water on the [bathroom] floor. Also the sewers are absolutely broken but exude horrible smells. There is also not enough cleaning agents in the bathroom. The wash basin is not fit for use. The [bathroom] doors are rotted out, and there is a lack of common things that a worker may use in the bathroom, like a water jug to clean oneself [traditionally used in Muslim countries to wash after going to the bathroom]. There is no hot water during the winter...
"The cafeteria suffers from poor hygiene and there are sickening smells in the cafeteria. The water is not fit for drinking, and there is no hot water during the entirety of the workday."
"Being forcibly deported has grave consequences for the guest workers. One Sri Lankan woman explained, "Some of us had to mortgage land in order to cover our expenses of arriving here, and some of these mortgages have been done at an interest rate as high as 20 percent."
"The targets [mandatory production goals] are too high. They are very strict about the targets. If you fail to achieve it, they send you to the room and keep you for two or three days or they would send you back to Sri Lanka.
"They are especially hard on our women. If we fail to achieve the target, they make us face other problems and inflict harm on us."
--Sri Lankan woman worker
Restrictions on Bathroom Use
"Going to the bathroom is frowned upon and strictly limited."
"They have made it so we even have to have permission to go to the toilet. We have to carry a token [pass] with us..."
"In Classic Factory #2, where there are 120 workers in a line, there is just one, or two, cards so you have to wait your turn, which is forever. Workers are allowed just two minutes. If they take longer, the managers scream at the women to get out... ‘What are you doing in there?'"
Primitive Dorm Conditions,
No Freedom of Movement, no Heat or Hot Water,
but plenty of Bed Bugs
Eight workers typically share each crowded dorm room, sleeping on double-level metal bunk beds, though some rooms hold up to 12 or 13 workers.
Classic management strictly limits freedom of movement for women workers, who are allowed to leave the factory/dorm compound just once a week for six hours. However, if the workers are forced to work overtime on Friday, which is supposed to be their weekly holiday, they may only be allowed out once or twice a month.
"It's the rule of factory management that women workers may stay outside from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Friday. We have to return to the dorm by 4:00 p.m. If we fail to return home by 4:00 p.m., the management punishes [us] on Saturday. For one or two late arrivals, management deports [women workers] to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh if they are Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi..."
"There is a security guard always checking-asking us where we are going. We aren't allowed outside most of the time, even if we want to go out to buy essentials. We can only buy stuff from the shop inside the dorm. If we are let out and don't come back by 4:00 p.m., our names would be written down and we would be scolded, using filthy words, by the factory manager. They tell us the strict rules are for our own good."
"...the dorm lacks hot water. During the arrival of winter in the first two days we asked the housekeeper of the dorm why there is no hot water. If he started the machine at 5:30 a.m. it would take two hours to arrive as hot water in the bathroom. Again we asked him, why is there no hot water? He replied that the owner ordered not to operate any heater. This is the rule of the owner. Then he went away..."
"During the season change in winter, the company hires someone not to start the [room] heater. There is a heater, but the company does not allow operating it. An outsider can see that there is a heater, but virtually it doesn't function. It's so cold in the room that our blankets get cold...
We asked her, why didn't she just switch on the heater?
Her response: "No, no. I am not authorized to do it. There is an assigned man who deals with this. He neither switches on the heater nor lets others do this. If I ask him, why don't you switch on the heater, we are dying of freezing cold, he responds, ‘The machine is out of order.' We are fed up with the repeated answers from the heater operator..."
"There is no central heating in this factory or in the female Sri Lankan or Bangladeshi dorms. In one room live eight women, and their room has mildew and mold that affects the health of the women workers in the factory that contributes to their exhaustion."
Another worker explained: "The dorms are quite far from the factory, and we never get any kind of transportation, even when it is rain turning to ice, they have to walk home drenched and cold." This is a good reason why the workers need heat and hot water in their dorms.
However, worker after worker all told us the same thing: "We never have hot water. We have to wash with cold water all the time. We are not allowed to use any kind of electric equipment to heat..."
"We don't have hot water," another worker told us, "and we are bitten by bed bugs every day. There are so many. During the warm season, the bed bugs increase in number."
An Indian worker told us, "There are lots of bed bugs. Mostly in the hot months. Because of these bed bugs, many workers including me prefer to sleep outside on the floor."
Jordanian Ministry of Labor officials are fond of saying that it is not "freezing cold" in Jordan, even in winter time. So the workers do not need heat or hot water. The average low temperature in Jordan is 43 degrees Fahrenheit in the month of December, 39 degrees in January and February, and 43 degrees in March. For the Sri Lankan workers, these temperatures feel "freezing cold," since the average low temperature in Sri Lanka in December through March is 73 degrees F! In Jordan, the average winter temperature is 31 degrees colder than in Sri Lanka.
The same is true for the Indian workers: The average temperature in India from December through March is 68.5 degrees F. Average winter temperatures in Jordan are 27.5 degrees colder than the workers are accustomed to in India.
In Bangladesh, the average low temperature for December through March is 56 degrees. Many Bangladeshis complain about the cold and wear jackets. So, yes, in Jordan where average lows are 15.3 degrees F colder than in Bangladesh, the workers are "freezing cold."
"Free Health Care" at Classic
Means an Aspirin
When guest workers sign their contracts at Classic, they are promised decent and free medical care. But according to the workers:
"The health clinic that exists inside the factory consists of one room only, and it is not equipped with adequate and sufficient health equipment. If a worker suffers from any pain, the male nurse gives her a pain killer that does not work. If the workers' health is really bad, they make him go to another facility outside the factory at his or her expense, and not the factory's where the employees agreed to work. The workers who take medicine from the clinic have their numbers recorded so that the cost of the medicine is deducted from their paychecks..."
"Even if you have a stomachache, toothache, headache, anything, [the nurse] gives you a Tylenol and if you have any treatment you have to pay yourself..."
"When we get sick, the company does not provide medical care facilities but gives only one tablet called ‘panadol." This is the common medicine that the company provides for all the diseases, for skin problems, for cold, fever, headache, etc. How can we get cured if the company does not pay us for medical services? The company suggests: ‘You go to a doctor with your own money.'"
"If you take one day's [sick] leave, your salary gets cut by an amount equal to three days' leave... If we take sick leave, they come looking for us, scold us and drag us to work... Even if a woman faints while working, they aren't allowed to go back to the dorm. They aren't given medication."
Workers told us about a woman who had appendicitis. Management refused to pay for her treatment so "workers had to chip in to pay for her operation and hospital stay."
"Every year in this factory, someone would die. The factory would not pay any kind of compensation. The medical facilities are at a minimum. The sick room is such that we cannot even get a tablet of Panadol from them... When someone dies, we would collect money from the workers and give it..."
"[Management] would not give permission to workers to go back to Sri Lanka even if a death occurs of one of the worker's family members. If the worker wants to go, he/she has to buy the ticket by him or herself, or else four other workers have to act as collateral, so their salary is cut for the amount.
"The Food is Awful"
"The food is awful. In my life I have never taken such kind of bad quality food. What should I say?-It is not good at all. The company provides one roti (pita bread) in the morning. The Ministry of Labor visited two-three times the dining [area] and we showed the quality of food. We asked them how a human being can eat this substandard food. We told the Ministry of Labor that we are also human beings like you. Even for this bad food, the company deducts 20 JD [$28.20-20 percent of the monthly wage] each month from us. We can't eat this food and in order to survive we sometimes cook food on our own arrangement..."
"Food is horrible. Always the same, low quality and not sufficient... We try to cook our own food, but we have to hide our electrical cookers...as all the time our rooms are checked for stuff like this. Six to seven women share each room. We go shopping every month to buy groceries and take turns cooking. We use an electric hotplate."
"Pathetic" and "really bad" is how the workers describe the factory food. For breakfast, workers are given two pieces of stale bread, lentil soup and tea. Lunch is rice and "old chicken." For supper, the workers prefer to cook their own food in the dorm.
-Young women guest workers-
-Who do not know their rights-
-Are isolated and afraid-
"They give many more visas to women than men... They work the girls much harder, that's all they want now, the women, the women they can make work longer hours... They hit the women all the time, they pull them up to the office and there they abuse them... They are always terrified, and it hurts us [the men] all so much to see them."
--Bangladeshi worker at Classic
In 2007, in an unprecedented step, the Jordanian government banned all Bangladeshi guest workers from entering Jordan. The crime the Bangladeshis committed was to ask for their basic legal rights under Jordanian law and the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement. Factory managers like Mr. Sanal at Classic demanded the ban so that the Bangladeshis would not expose the illegal sweatshop conditions the garment export factories were thriving on.
It is difficult to understand why U.S. government officials charged with overseeing the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement did not object to this ban. With no objection made, the human engineering of guest workers went forward with more young women imported from Sri Lanka and other countries. Of course, there was no objection raised by Wal-Mart, Hanes, Kohl's, or any other U.S. retailers.
It was not until July 2010, when Jordanian garment export factories were booming again-with exports to the U.S. up 34 percent-that Mr. Kumar and other factory owners were desperate to find more young women to staff their plants. So at the factory owner's behest, the Jordanian government reversed itself and lifted the ban for young Bangladeshi women to enter Jordan-while continued the ban to block Bangladeshi men. Again, the U.S. government and the labels said nothing.
The first new "batch" of 800 or so young Bangladeshi women workers-this is how Mr. Kumar at Classic refers to it: "batches of Bangladeshis" he has "bought"-entered Jordan in September 2010. The women were 18 to 25 years of age, mostly single, and very frightened. For the first time in their lives they were 3,300 miles from home and their families.
These young Bangladeshi women were housed in isolated dorms with very limited freedom of movement. At most they could leave the industrial park for six hours once a week, and often they are allowed out just twice a month.
Classic managers threaten these young women not to speak with anyone other than factory staff. They train the workers to think what management says is the law. The women are told to "keep up the image of Jordan's largest and best factory."
Management tells the young women to beware of "older workers, who are troublemakers, who will soon be deported," and for their good, the young women should stay away from them, unless they want to get in trouble and be sent home too.
Isolated and with nowhere to turn, the young women have no choice but to comply with whatever management tells them to do. The young women are also easier to exploit as they do not ask for holidays, overtime pay, vacation days and so on.
The alleged sexual predator and rapist, the garment manager, Anil Kumar, recently traveled to Bangladesh on May 27th to recruit another 600 to 700 young Bangladeshi women to work at Classic.
Is this the sort of model free trade agreement the U.S. government wants to support?
"Social Accountability and Sustainability" Is Slick, But Phony as a Three Dollar Bill
"Freedom from Harassment and Abuse"
"Neither any form of harassment or abuse, be it physical, sexual, psychological or verbal, nor any threat of violence or corporal punishment is used against the workers or other staff..."
FACT: Young women guest workers are routinely beaten, humiliated, threaten, treated as if they were slaves, and testify of being raped and tortured.
"Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining"
"CLASSIC FASHION recognizes and respects the right of its employees, whether permanent or temporary, from the highest paid to the lowest paid, to exercise their lawful rights of free association and collective bargaining."
FACT: Guest workers are prohibited from forming an independent union, and have zero rights to collective bargaining. Jordan's garment workers union is controlled by the government and is very different from unions in North America or Europe.
No Forced or Involuntary Labour"
"As CLASSIC FASHION gives more importance to basic human rights, it never extracts any forced or involuntary labour - indentured, bonded or otherwise - from the workers. It prohibits all relevant personnel from coercing employees in any way or unnecessarily limiting freedom of movement enjoyed by the employees."
FACT: All overtime is forced at Classic, and workers who do not reach their mandatory production goals are not paid for their overtime hours. Classic's women workers have no freedom of movement. Women are allowed outside the factory/dorm compound just once a week for six hours. If they are forced to work on Friday-their holiday-they may be allow out just one or two days a month.
"Hours of Work"
"CLASSIC FASHION ensures that the hours worked each day and the days worked each week do not exceed the legal maximum..."
FACT: There is no legal limit on overtime hours in Jordan. So, technically speaking, it is true that Classic does not "exceed the legal maximum." But all overtime is mandatory, and at a minimum, workers are at the factory 87 hours a week.
"Health and Safety"
"A safe and healthy workplace with adequate First Aid Kits, with Nurses & Doctors, nutritive food is sufficient quantity and accommodation is provided for the employees in CLASSIC FASHION."
FACT: The Jordanian Government has no formal standard with regard to the healthcare that should be provided to guest workers. "Health care" can be met by providing workers with an aspirin. Workers describe the factory's food as horrible and too little, and the dorms as filthy, with no heat and infested with bed bugs.
1. There must be an immediate halt to any new recruitment of foreign guest workers to work at any of the Classic Group factories, and also a ban on the deportation of any workers currently employed at any of the Classic factories. We expect that the U.S. Embassy in Jordan and the Office of the United States Trade Representative will support these necessary steps.
2. Starting immediately, Mr. Anil and Mr. Priyantha cannot be allowed to enter any factory in the Classic Group or have any contact with any Classic worker. Criminal charges will be brought against Mr. Anil, Mr. Priyantha and any other Classic management staff who have sexually harassed, beaten, abused or raped employees.
3. Every woman who has been sexually harassed, abused, raped or held in sex bondage should receive, at a minimum $500,000 in personal injury compensation from Classic's owner, Mr. Sanal Kumar.
4. Every woman who has been sexually harassed, groped or beaten should receive a minimum of $50,000 in personal injury compensation from Classic's owner, Mr. Sanal Kumar.
5. For years the Jordanian Ministry of Labor has been unable or unwilling to prevent the gross sexual abuse and rape of young female guest workers at the Classic Group of factories. The Ministry of Labor must fund an independent women's rights ombudswoman's office-to operate independently of the Ministry of Labor-with adequate staff (including translators) to monitor and establish the rule of law with regard to the protection of the thousands of young guest workers at Classic, who are vulnerable to sexual predation.
6. The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights along with representatives from the United Steelworkers Union will travel to Jordan with Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi translators. We are also asking representatives from the United States Trade Representatives' office to join the delegation. We will demand a 100 percent guarantee from the Jordanian Government that there will be absolutely no retaliation against any workers who meet with us to provide their testimonies.
7. The labels produced at Classic-Wal-Mart, Hanes, Kohl's, Target, Jones Apparel and others-must not cut and run, which would only further punish the workers, who have already suffered enough. However, Wal-Mart and the other labels must take immediate and concrete steps to clean up the Classic factories and guarantee that the legal rights of the workers will finally be respected. We fully expect that Wal-Mart, Hanes, Target and the other labels will take concrete steps to make any rape victims whole again, including significant monetary compensation for the crimes they have suffered.
8. We ask that senior representatives of the labels produced at the Classic Group of factories meet with us and the Classic workers on Friday afternoon, June 17, at the auditorium in the Al Hassan Industrial Park.
9. Whenever there is gross sexual abuse of young women, it is certain as day follows night that there are other gross worker and human rights abuses. The Jordanian Ministry of Labor is largely funded by U.S. tax dollars. If there are not significant credible improvements with regard to implementing Jordan's labor laws and the worker rights treaty provisions under the U.S. Jordan Free Trade Agreement, the American people should ask for their money back.
"Certain issues remain very difficult to assess and verify independently. Sexual harassment is difficult to identify in a factory assessment visit. It is generally considered that due to the sensitive nature of the issue, sexual harassment is likely underreported. Workers experiencing sexual harassment are often reluctant to report it due to fear of stigma or retaliation."
Garment Industry 2nd Compliance Synthesis Report, pg 11
Better Work Jordan, March 24, 2011
Factory Visits Alone Do Not Work
We spoke last week with an Indian worker at Classic. We asked him if he was familiar with Better Work Jordan-or "Better Jobs" as it is called in Jordan. "Yes," he replied, "a lady from that organization used to come to the factory. She asked in the open about food and working conditions, but nobody can complain because everyone is afraid of Anil." Anil is the general manager of the Classic Group of factories. He is loathed and feared by the workers and workers testified that he is a sexual predator.
If Better Work Jordan does not find a way to develop and win the trust of Classic and other garment workers in Jordan's garment industry, and establish direct contacts with the workers in safe locations away from the factories, Better Work Jordan's stated goals will continue to fail.
"Better Work Jordan" is largely funded by U.S. taxpayers. In the last two years "Better Work Jordan has been "monitoring" conditions at the Classic Group of factories, but has been unable to prevent alleged sexual predators among Classic management from beating, harassing, groping and raping young woman guest workers, some of whom appear to be held in bondage.
If Better Work Jordan does not significantly improve its ability to protect women's and workers' rights at Classic and other factories, the U.S. taxpayers will have the right to ask for our money back. Better Work Jordan can easily fund itself with its "participating partners"-Wal-Mart, Hanes etc.
For a complete report with label and shipment documentation, please download the PDF report.
A number of Sri Lankan and other South Asia women's rights and university colleagues based in the United States have spent hours on phone, day and night, and working on written translation so the voices of the Sri Lankan workers can be heard. These pages would never have been written if it were not for the enormous work of Marina Fernando, Nirmi Vitarana, Mariko Wijekoon, Subadra Panchanadeswaran, Achala Rockwell, Kalpana Seshadri, Dinusha Weerakkody, Namal Munaweera Tantula, Nayomi Munaweera, Mali Munaweera, Neil Munaweera, Shazia Nazir, Marianne Sarkis, Tamanna Rahman and her mother, and Jude Fernando.
Deep thanks for guidance, networking and logistical support are also due to Robert Ross and the staff of the Sociology Department of Clark University; South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) and Sakhi for South Asian Women, Charlie Derber, Boston College and Andrew Ross, New York University. Tim Waters, Holly Hart, Dan Kovalik, and Aaron Hudson from the United Steelworkers have provided tremendous assistance in the development and production of this report.