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2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Jordan

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Jordan, 8 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ea66202c.html [accessed 20 September 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: 6,300,000
Capital: Amman
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Union activity is tightly controlled, and union activists face discrimination and, in the case of migrants, deportation. A single trade union system is in place, and it is prohibitively difficult to call a lawful strike.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN LAW

The laws regulating trade union rights in Jordan are very restrictive, and the amendment of the Labour Code in July 2010 brought no improvement to the situation. Workers in private companies and in some public corporations have the right to form trade unions, but all unions must belong to the General Federation of Jordanian Trade Unions (GFJTU). Furthermore, fifty founding members are required to establish a union, and approval by the Ministry of Labour is required for it to become officially registered. New trade unions must also be directly linked to 17 professions and sectors in which unions already exist. Civil servants, as well as gardeners and cooks, are not covered by the Labour Code, and non-citizens are denied the right to organise.

The right to collective bargaining is not recognised, however there is a chapter on collective agreements in the Labour Code. The right to strike is heavily curtailed, as government permission must be obtained in order to call a lawful strike. The Ministry of Labour can also impose cumbersome mediation or refer the case to a labour court. Alternatively, the dispute can be transferred to the Council of Ministers and then to Parliament. Strikes are prohibited during the entire dispute resolution procedure.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN PRACTICE AND VIOLATIONS IN 2010

Background: Elections held in November brought in mainly pro-loyalist traditional candidates. Some groups, including the main opposition, boycotted the elections in a protest against electoral reforms which favoured representation from rural tribal areas, thereby increasing the influence of traditional candidates. Several major strikes were held throughout the year including protests by teachers demanding the right to form an independent association. There remains significant numbers of workers on daily wages with massive job insecurity.

Migrant domestic workers abused: Official figures show that more than 322,000 migrants are working in Jordan, but unofficial estimates put unregistered migrant workers at 100,000150,000. Many workers, especially domestic workers, are employed without the proper permits, have their passports taken and are forced to work extremely long hours. In October an Indonesian migrant domestic worker fell to her death while trying to escape from her employer.

In August 2008, amendments to the Labour Law stated that migrant domestic workers are to be treated on equal footing with Jordanian workers in terms of medical care, timely payment of wages and subscription to the Social Security Corporation. Under the rules, all transfers of domestic helpers from a sponsor to another employer must be ratified at a labour directorate in order to ensure a more transparent process. Previously such transfers would occur at recruitment offices. Despite the legal changes, for most foreign workers the situation has not improved, and several cases of abuse came to light throughout 2010.

Teachers fight for right to form a trade union: The Minister of Education was forced to apologise over comments he had made calling on teachers to take care of their appearance rather than spend their time demanding a union. The comments had sparked a strike in four governorates in March 2010 and came during a running dispute between teachers and the Education Ministry over the right of teachers to form a professional association, a decades-long ambition that has yet to materialise.

Government officials stated that the striking teachers were acting against their professional duties and violated the law, and also alleged that these were influenced by outside parties seeking to advance "narrow" political agendas. They vowed to "take all appropriate measures" against those who have violated the by-law of the Civil Service Bureau that clearly prohibits any civil servant from taking part in any strike or sit-in.

A committee of teachers was set up in February to lobby for the establishment of an association for teachers, an endeavour that had previously been rejected by the Ministry of Education, which considered it unconstitutional. The Supreme Council for the Interpretation of the Constitution had ruled in 1994 that it is unconstitutional to establish a professional association for teachers (to which membership is mandatory). However, the Prime Minister has reportedly suggested that an alternative to such an organisation may be possible. The Professional Associations Council has also expressed its support for the teachers' demand to form an association of their own.

On 20 March the Ministry of Education instructed heads of education directorates to check on the attendance of teachers and to provide it with the names of violators. The Ministry informed around 45 teachers involved in the protests that they were to be forced into early retirement or relocated to remote schools as a punishment for their involvement in the strikes. However, in September the government finally decided to cancel these punitive moves.

Strikes, go-slows and protests continued throughout the year although teachers suspended protests in many areas for summer examinations. In December renewed protests were held to once again push the demands for an association.

Textile workers stripped of documents and abused: In April it was reported that around 200 migrant workers from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India, 75% of whom are women, were found to have been trafficked to the International British Garments factory – owned by the security company G4S – stripped of their passports and held under conditions of indentured servitude. Allegations of sexual harassment and rape of a young Sri Lankan woman were found credible, and workers reported that at least two of their colleagues were overworked to death.

The President of the General Trade Union of Workers in Textile Industries (GTUWTI) reportedly stated that their representatives were prevented by the company's former general manager in Jordan from entering the company's premises, but that they had been in secret contact with the workers. Despite the authorities having been informed of these complaints, nothing was done. According to reports, factory management punished any worker who contacted the GTUWTI.

Day rate workers arrested for holding a protest – union rights denied: Muhammad al-Sunaid and Ahmad al-Luwanisa, leaders of the Committee of Day Labourers at Government Offices, gathered with 30 other workers on daily contracts on 10 May to hold a protest over their recent dismissal by the Ministry of Agriculture. The two were then arrested and charged with holding an unlawful gathering and defaming and insulting a public official. Sunaid had been a day labourer at the Ministry for over 15 years. Regulations state that if a worker works for over three months as a worker is paid on a daily basis, he will be covered by the labour law, and the government had promised that such labourers would be made permanent government employees. However, despite promises many day workers have been dismissed recently with no benefits, sick pay or pension. The two workers were charged by a special state security court.

According to reports, Sunaid co-founded the Committee of Day Labourers in 2006. The 12 committee members represent the interests of 13,000 day workers and are lobbying the government for full employment as civil servants instead of their precarious situation as day labourers. Sunaid reportedly said that the Labor Ministry denied the committee status as a union, since they were not privately employed, but employed by the government.

In 2007, the government finally agreed to convert the job status to civil service in three groups of labourers, the final one to be converted in 2010. However, the present government has not implemented this agreement, and has instead fired many dayworkers as the economic climate has worsened.

Textile worker strike deemed "illegal": In May over 400 migrant workers at the "Rainbow" Textile and Garment Factory went on strike over poor working conditions, including poor food and water. The General Trade Union of Workers in Textile Industries stated that the workers had been complaining for months but nothing had been done. Workers reportedly faced verbal abuse and threats from management as well as unsafe working conditions. According to the union, factory management had not taken any steps to improve the situation.

Management stated that it considered the strike illegal and that it was caused by individuals who sought to cause disturbances inside the factory "for the benefit of outside entities", in a reference to the support of the General Trade Union of Workers in Textile Industries. It also stated that it would take legal measures against the workers who went on strike and that it would consider their refusal to work "illegal, and "contributing to financial losses for the factory".

Abuse of Egyptian workers in Jordan: According to most recent statistics by the Ministry of Labour, 71% of the approximately 458,000 foreign workers employed in Jordan are Egyptian. There are repeated reports of ill treatment of Egyptian workers despite several efforts to protect their rights. A recent report stated that agricultural workers are brought to Jordan under circumstances resembling human trafficking with agricultural workers working long hours and denied weekly holidays.

An August report found around 10,000 cleaners, attendants and cafeteria staff in the public and private health sector subjected to conditions similar to forced labour and denied basic rights with most working involuntary overtime and receiving less than the minimum wage without annual leave or sick pay. In many instances social security insurance is not paid despite begin deducted from salaries.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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