Workers’ groups play crucial role in keeping farm workers safe in Jordan

A number of labour committees in Jordan, set up with the support of the ILO, have been raising awareness among farm workers on the dangers of COVID-19 and ensuring appropriate measures are in place to protect workers from infection.

Article | 18 May 2020
Amman, Jordan (ILO News) Most business sectors in Jordan began to gradually resume operations in May, following a two-month lockdown imposed by the government to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The cautious reopening of businesses came with strict social distancing and safety requirements, such as wearing face masks and gloves at all times. 

Workers in agriculture were among the first to have to adapt to changes at work, as many continued to work through the lockdown to ensure the country’s food supply was not disrupted.

Ayman Abu Kishek owns a farm in Mafraq, which employs 60 workers, including local Jordanians, Syrian refugees and Egyptian migrants. He grows everything from grapes and pears to olives and tomato. He says that his farm had to quickly adjust to changes in line with instructions given by the government.

“Our workers have been very cooperative,” said Abu Kishek. “We’ve worked with our labour committee to raise awareness among workers on what they can and cannot do, like keeping a 2-metre physical distance between each other while working in the field, and not gathering in one place. We also distributed face masks and gloves to the workers and ensured everyone was aware of the new guidelines.”

Abu Kishek’s farm is one of 24 farms the ILO has been working with in recent years through initiatives aimed at improving the living and working conditions of agricultural workers. These initiatives include providing families living in makeshift camps near or on farms with prefabricated houses to improve living standards, and improving the provision of Occupational Health and Safety measures on farms.

They also include setting up labour committees – groups of worker representatives that help workers voice their needs and concerns.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus pandemic, these labour committees have been playing a crucial role in ensuring that workers and employers take appropriate health and safety measures on farms.

Syrian Farhan Sattouf has been working on Abu Kishek’s farm for five years and heads the labour committee on the farm. He says the committee is taking a number of steps, in coordination with their employer, to ensure that everyone on the farm stays safe.

“Our role as a committee in general is to oversee the needs and concerns of workers in relation to their wages, housing and safety and we meet every month with our employer to discuss any pressing issues that might arise,” said Sattouf. “Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have been working continuously with farm workers to raise their awareness and the awareness of their family members who live on farms, on the dangers of the virus. We also ensure that they have the appropriate protective clothing, and that their housing is disinfected regularly.”

To-date, the ILO has helped set up 21 committees that include 113 members of both genders and various nationalities on the 24 farms that the ILO is targeting through interventions.

Since the pandemic outbreak, the ILO has been virtually distributing audio and visual materials to labour committees on health and safety measures as well as updates provided by the ministry of health and the ministry of labour. It has also been holding on-line meetings with committees to discuss the challenges workers face, and to provide support to workers and farm owners.

“At the farm-level, we are working with labour committees to address the emerging needs of workers, especially in terms of protection, such as the provision of personal protective equipment,” said Maha Kattaa, ILO Regional Resilience and Crisis Response Specialist. “But we are also working on an Occupational Safety and Health manual for the agricultural sector in response to COVID-19, in cooperation with our partners, which will assist farms in taking the necessary measures to protect the safety and health of their workers.”

Efforts to improve the living and working conditions of farm workers in Jordan are part of initiatives funded by the Government of the Netherlands to enhance decent work and productivity in sectors employing refugees, migrant workers and vulnerable Jordanians. 

For more information on project activities see: