More Reports of Abuse in Jordanian Garment Factories

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Mar 5 2013

Over 100 Nepali workers in Jordan recently requested repatriation to escape abusive conditions at a garment factory. The factory appears to be Needle Craft Est, which carries an extensive record of exploitation. Needle Craft is a UAE-owned company that also runs factories in Egypt. For several years, the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights has documented numerous cases of abuse at varying Jordanian garment factories. These factories export to brands that sell globally, including Hanes, Wal-Mart, Target, Kohls, Macy’s, and Victoria’s Secret.

Five Nepali women who have worked at the factory for nearly two months lodged official complaints with Nepali authorities. They claim a range of violations, including underpayment, verbal abuse, overwork, and unsuitable living conditions. The SCC employment agency promised the women 178 JD/250 USD per month, but they have only received 105 JD/148 USD The minimum wage for garment workers is 110 JD per month. Additionally, they report that employers forced them to often work 18-hour days, exceeding Jordan’s legal quota of 10 hrs. Jordan's labour law allows workers 14 days of paid sick leave, but several individuals recounted they were unable to take time off for illness.

The women also complained of severe harassment by local youth:

“Children hurl stones at us, while older youth verbally and physically abuse girls. A few days ago, a few Arab boys attempted to abduct two Nepali girls and took away their mobile phones,” Sarita KC of Jorpati told the Post over telephone.

The behavior of young Jordanians is particularly disturbing as it reflects the normalization of discriminatory attitudes towards migrant workers and perpetuates exploitation.

Bishnu Khadka, a representative of the women's employment agency, indicated intentions to secure the workers’ repatriation in coordination with the Department of Foreign Employment Officials and Saudi’s Nepali mission. Though a significant number of Nepalis currently work in Jordan, they do not enjoy the resources of a local embassy. Nepal announced plans to sign a labour pact with Jordan last year, bur currently workers rely only on the limited support of an Honorary Counselor and the ad-hoc aid of Nepal’s mission in Saudi Arabia.

While Khadka appears to accept responsibility for the discrepancies between the agency’s employment contacts and the conditions these women face, he also alleges the workers are “exaggerating the matter." Khadka claims the agency is prepared to repatriate all workers , but his attitude indicates that other Nepalis will merely be misled to take their place; exploitation in Jordanian garment factories is heavily documented and recurrent complaints should not be belittled. Khadka’s agency as well as the Nepali government must be held accountable for continuing to place women in unsafe conditions.

Jordanian authorities are also culpable for failing not only to regulate employment conditions, but for their unwillingness to penalize factories with sustained records of abuse. In many cases, local authorities ignored the complaints of workers or failed implement punishments against convicted employers.This pattern of conduct is contrary to Jordan’s own labour law, which provides for mechanisms to penalize exploitative employers.

Furthermore, Jordan’s negligence contravenes several components of the ILO’s Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, which the nation has neither signed nor ratified. These include the prohibition against slavery or servitude and forced or compulsory labour (Art. 11), the right to dress employment contracts (Art. 54(D)) as well as equality with nationals in terms of minimum wage, hours, and conditions of work (Art 25.)

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East