The Better Work Jordan programme has called for advancing worker rights, during discussions with civil society organisations (CSOs) and media outlets in the country on working conditions and factory compliance in the garment sector.
At two separate meetings, the programme presented findings of its 13th “Annual Report 2022: An Industry Compliance and Review” to CSO representatives and journalists, highlighting challenges facing garment workers.
In Jordan’s garment industry, 91 programme-registered factories employ 62,963 workers -- around 95 per cent of garment workers in the sector. Migrants make up three-quarters of the workforce, and Jordanians the remaining 25 per cent. Nearly 75 per cent of the production work force are women.
Abed Aljwad Alnatsheh, national project coordinator of the Workers’ Voices project of Better Work Jordan, explained to the participants the mechanism for assessing compliance of factories with national legislation as well as international labour standards and treaties.
“The annual report represents a starting point for CSOs and the media to focus on labour issues and challenges facing garment workers, as well as their rights,” Alnatsheh said.
The report draws from multiple sources, including assessment findings from unannounced compliance visits to factories conducted jointly with the Ministry of Labour (MoL); data collected during regular factory interactions; and survey data gathered over three years from workers and managers.
The meetings aimed at making workers’ voices heard, enhancing collaboration with CSOs and media outlets, and providing them with transparent information and data, in order to raise worker and public awareness.
Alnatsheh briefed the participants on Phase IV Strategy (2022 - 2027) of Better Work Jordan that aims to consolidate and enhance its achievements, while equipping national stakeholders to take leadership roles in advancing these achievements. With this approach, the programme aspires to ensure that its impact on working conditions in the garment industry is sustainable.
A partnership between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the programme is mandatory for garment factories that export to the US under the US-Jordan Free Trade Agreement.
Labour standards The discussion meetings covered core international labour standards (Child Labour, Discrimination, Forced Labour, and Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining).
“The fact that Jordan has not ratified ILO Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), deprives migrant workers of the right to join trade unions,” said Mohammad Maitah, responsible for migrant worker affairs at the Arab Trade Union Confederation. “It prevents workers from accessing justice to address their issues … CSOs have clearly emphasised this point.”
Ahmad Malkawi, who represented the Phoenix Centre for Economics and Informatics Studies, talked about challenges facing the General Trade Union of Workers in Textile, Garment and Clothing Industries in the sector.
“Support by the factories is key to improving working conditions, and complying with minimum wage standards,” Malkawi said.
There are differences in minimum wages of Jordanian and migrant workers, and differences in the minimum wage for the garment sector compared to the full economy. As of 2022, the minimum wage is JOD 260 (USD 367) for Jordanians and JOD 245 (USD 350) for non-Jordanians, according to the annual report.
Working conditionsSeveral areas of contracts and human resources improved in 2021, and non-compliance for recruitment fees dropped significantly, because of lower recruitment, improvement in recruitment practices, and the practice of some factories reimbursing workers for recruitment fees, the report said.
The CSO representatives and journalists underscored the importance of the unified contract for migrant workers, developed in 2013 by national stakeholders with support from Better Work Jordan. The contract was a breakthrough for Jordan and still constitutes one of the most comprehensive of its kind in in the apparel industry, worldwide.
Major Mohammad Khleifat, head of the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit at the Public Security Directorate, said the unit carries out regular inspections at factories, and did not report any cases in the past two years.
“These inspections are conducted in coordination with the MoL, the ILO, and the Ministry of Health, to deal with human trafficking, as well as forced and child labour,” he added.
According to the Jordanian Labour Law, 16 is the legal minimum age for employment, and workers under the age of 18 are considered juveniles in Jordan. Although this law is applicable to both Jordanians and non-Jordanians, the recruitment and migration of unaccompanied minors are considered human trafficking under the Anti-Trafficking Unit. Employment of children under age 16 is one of the issues covered by the zero-tolerance protocol (ZTP) according to Better Work Jordan’s collaboration agreement with the MoL. Over the last ten years, the Jordanian garment industry has greatly reduced the number and severity of cases of forced labour.
“Tougher legal and social action is needed to combat child labour and exploitation,” said Enaam Asha, a women's rights advocate and lawyer, who represented the Solidarity is Global Institute - Jordan. Asha said the MoL should increase the number of labour inspectors, currently estimated at 170.
The attendees called for enhancing workers’ awareness of labour rights, providing workers with legal advisory services, and ensuring trade union representation, pay equity and occupational safety and health.
Role of the mediaBetter Work Jordan believes that the media plays a role bringing issues to light and sharing accurate and timely information on the sector with the public.
Journalist Rania Al Sarairah said “efforts should be intensified to fight child labour and human trafficking, and to support gender equality at work”.
Under the ZTP, Better Work Jordan is obliged to report child labour cases when detected to MoL, said Muna Ali, enterprise adviser with the Labour Inspection project of Better Work Jordan.
Ali added that one child labour case was reported in 2021. A female migrant worker used false documents to enter Jordan, showing that her age was 18, although in reality she was a minor.
Journalist and unionist, Baker Al Amir, suggested that media outlets should focus on Better Work Jordan methodologies when reporting on labour and worker issues. Al Amir said journalists should collaborate with the programme to produce in-depth reports based on accurate information and data.
Alnatsheh briefed the participants on programme efforts and national partnerships aimed at improving working conditions, advancing worker rights, and boosting competitiveness of the garment sector.
He agreed with the participants on the need for extensive coverage of labour issues in the media, as well as training courses on worker rights.