Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 December 2014, 12:47 GMT

2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Jordan

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 20 November 2008
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Jordan, 20 November 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca862d.html [accessed 26 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: 5,900,000
Capital: Amman
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Restrictions on Jordanian workers' trade union rights, including the continued single union system, continue, and there are fears that a new law could restrict freedom of association. Migrant workers were beaten during a strike in the QIZs, and others were threatened with dismissal. Foreign domestic workers have gained rights.

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 Ministry of Labour approval in order to become officially registered, and 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, audits its accounts and monitors its activities and its elections.

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

New law threatens freedom of association: There was concern that a new law being discussed in the Parliament at the end of the year on limiting freedom of association for nongovernmental organisations could extend to trade unions. The bill would forbid NGOs from becoming a member of a partner of a foreign NGO and would place limits on its funding.

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 that 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. Strikes do take place, but without government permission, so they are deemed illegal.

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) and Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZs): There are a combination of free trade zones and Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZs). Although they are subject to the national labour law, because 70% of the labour force are foreign and classed as "noncitizens", workers are not legally allowed to form or participate in unions, and as a result many suffer from very low pay and terrible conditions.

No union rights for migrant workers: Foreign workers are barred from trade union membership, collective bargaining and striking. The unions have pressured the government to amend the labour law to allow them to join a union, without voting rights. The proposed amendments have not yet been presented to the House of Representatives for adoption.

In 2007 the ILO "expressed hope" that the Labour Code would be amended to protect migrant workers

Non-national domestic workers now have labour contract: However, following scandals about treatment of domestic workers, Jordan has introduced a standard contract for non-national domestic workers. This gives 15 days' paid holiday after two years' service, a fixed monthly salary and a paid day off each week. Employers are not allowed to confiscate the employee's passport, must pay for work and residence permits and provide food, lodging and medical care.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Background: There have been several strikes by foreign workers in the QIZs, and while the Ministry has threatened to fine workers on "illegal" strikes and replace them with Jordanian workers, these strikes have helped improve pay and conditions.

Gains by civil aviation workers: The International Transport Workers Federation-affiliated General Trade Union of Workers in Air Transport and Tourism that covers 92% of the entire royal Jordanian workforce won a deal that gives them part-ownership in the company, and maintains their rights to organise and bargain collectively.

Conditions in Qualified Industrial Zones: Following a damning report in March 2006 by the US-based National Labour Committee (NLC) describing the dreadful working conditions in the zones faced by migrant workers, the Ministry of Labour brought in 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.

In August the government started to regularise their position by giving them a temporary identity card, although this did not always make it easy for them to work.

The government accepted the GFJTU's request to set up offices in the QIZs and has promised to finance them.

Ten foreign workers beaten during strike: Ten workers were beaten by police during a strike by 3,000 foreign workers in December.

The workers, from factories in the QIZs producing goods for Wal-Mart, Gloria Vanderbilt and GAP, were protesting about earning $169.42 a month for a 78-hour week. After management deductions for room and board, workers end up with take-home pay of just $30.95 a week, under half the $63.88 legal minimum. Before taking strike action the workers had written to the Jordanian Ministry of Labour but did not receive any response.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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