Last Updated: Friday, 19 December 2014, 13:25 GMT

2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Jordan

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2007
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Jordan, 9 June 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca2628.html [accessed 20 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 5,700,000
Capital: Amman
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

There are still many restrictions on Jordanian workers' trade union rights, including the continued single union system. The ever increasing number of migrant workers still have no union rights, although the Jordanian trade unions have been pressing the government for changes in the law.

Trade union rights in law

Obstacles to freedom of association: Workers employed in private companies and in some public corporations have the right to form trade unions. However, there are many obstacles to freedom of association. Trade unions must obtain approval from the Ministry of Labour in order to become officially registered. Registration is directly linked to 17 professions and sectors in which trade unions already exist, making trade union pluralism effectively impossible.

Unions are required to be members of the General Federation of Jordanian Trade Unions (GFJTU), which is the only trade union federation. The government subsidises the GFJTU's wages and some of its activities. It also audits the accounts of the federation and monitors its activities and observes the trade union elections.

Civil servants, domestic staff, gardeners, cooks and agricultural workers are not covered by the Labour Code.

No union rights for migrant workers: Foreigners working in Jordan are barred from trade union membership, collective bargaining, and striking. The unions have pressured the government to amend the labour law to allow migrant workers to join union, without voting rights. The proposed amendments have not yet been presented to the House of Representatives for adoption. There are over one million migrant workers in Jordan, and the numbers are rising.

The Labour Code does not ensure protection against anti-union discrimination, but workers may complain to the Ministry of Labour, which is authorised to reinstate those workers who have been dismissed for union activities.

Right to strike heavily curtailed: The right to strike is considerably limited by the fact that permission must be obtained from the government before a strike can take place. The Ministry of Labour can also impose cumbersome mediation or, if that fails to reach a settlement, it can refer the case to a labour court which consists of a panel of judges appointed by the Ministry. Its decisions are binding. Both parties must agree to court action, or else the Ministry will transfer the case to the Council of Ministers and then the Parliament.

Strikes are prohibited during mediation and arbitration periods. The law also prohibits employers from dismissing a worker during a labour dispute.

Unions have the right to bargain collectively: Unions have the right to bargain collectively. The most common subjects of negotiation are salaries, safety standards, working hours and health insurance.

Export processing zones (EPZs): There is a combination of free trade zones and "approved" industrial zones or export processing zones in Jordan. They are subject to the national labour law.

Trade union rights in practice

Strikes declared illegal: Strikes do take place, but without the permission of the government, which declares them illegal.

Migrant workers: unions are keen to help ... : Even though they are not allowed to recruit them as members, the unions are trying to defend the interests of migrant workers. In March 2006, a damning 162-page report by the National Labour Committee (NLC), an American organisation defending workers' rights, described the dreadful working conditions often faced by migrant workers in EPZs: very long working days in totally inadequate safety and sanitary conditions for very low wages that are sometimes not paid for several months, along with threats of deportation for any workers who complain, many cases of physical and sexual violence, etc.

The Ministry of Labour reacted to the report with a range of measures. It increased the number of inspectors, set up a special phone line for complaints from migrant workers, fined employers and suspended the granting of visas to would-be migrants for some time. At least seven factories were closed down.

The unions responded by making an urgent request to the government to reform the labour law to make it compatible with international labour standards for both Jordanians and migrant workers. The government accepted the GFJTU's request to set up offices in the EPZs and promised to finance them.

... but are often powerless: In the Bangladeshi Taylor factory, the textile union contacted the Labour Ministry at the workers' request, following their complaints about inhuman working conditions, dormitories with no running water and sometimes being forced to take amphetamines in order to work longer. The authorities responded by closing down the factory, without even consulting or warning the workers. Left to fend for themselves in their dormitories, the workers were subsequently beaten up by male managers.

Violations in 2006

Background: Several strikes involving Asian workers broke out in assembly plants in EPZs, but brought little benefit to the workers, who were often suffering from appalling working conditions and the threat of deportation.

Non-respect of an agreement in the oil industry: In March, 3,500 employees of the JPRC, an oil refinery, stopped work after waiting in vain for their employer to implement an agreement reached a month earlier with the General Trade Union of Petroleum and Chemical Workers. The agreement provided for a wage increase and improved health insurance cover.

Deported for taking collective action: On 3 August, ten workers at the Turkish factory Atateks who had started and led a protest that had brought an improvement in working conditions and wages a few weeks earlier were taken to the police station in a vehicle owned by the management, on the pretext of escorting them to Amman to get their residence permits. Having warned their colleagues of their arrest by mobile phone, which sparked off a demonstration, the ten workers were beaten up and stripped of all their clothes. On 6 August they were expelled from the country, without even being allowed to collect their belongings. The authorities explained that they had been sacked by their manager and deported since they represented a threat, but refused to go into further details.

On 2 September, a dispute at the Palestinian factory Silver Planet had a similar outcome: the ten workers representing the 500 Bengali staff were deported, also following imprisonment.

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