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2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Jordan

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2010
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Jordan, 9 June 2010, available at: [accessed 21 November 2017]
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. Union activists and strikers face discrimination and in the case of migrants' deportation. Throughout 2009, strikes and protests by migrant workers were brutally broken up by baton-wielding police. Changes to the labour law giving migrants more protection and labour rights have not yet had an impact. A single trade union system is in place, and it is prohibitively difficult to call a lawful strike.

Trade union rights in law

Although the law recognises some trade union rights, those remain limited. Workers in private companies and in some public corporations have the right to form trade unions. However, freedom of association is hampered by the requirement that all unions 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, which effectively makes trade union pluralism impossible. Civil servants, as well as gardeners and cooks, are not covered by the Labour Code, and non-citizens are denied the right to form or join trade unions.

Furthermore, 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 obtain 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 is transferred to the Council of Ministers and then to Parliament. Strikes are prohibited during the dispute resolution procedures.

A draft law was submitted by the Government to the Council of Ministers, which has not been approved yet. This law would regulate the recruitment and employment of non-Jordanian labourers as well as allowing them to join trade unions.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Background: Jordan continues to be a relatively stable country in the Middle East, with some democratic structures. The country has been hard hit by the economic crisis and faces rising unemployment and debt. In mid-2009 King Abdullah dissolved parliament in order to push through new economic reforms.

Migrant workers abused: In August 2008, amendments to the Labour Law stated that 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. However for most foreign domestic workers the situation has not yet changed and several cases of abuse came to light throughout 2009. 2009 official figures showed that more than 322,000 migrants are working in Jordan but that unofficial estimates put unregistered migrant workers at 100,000-150,000. Many are employed without the proper permits, have their passports taken and are forced to work extremely long hours.

Migrants abandoned, workers penalised for deliberately provoked strike: The Israeli owner of the DK Factory in Irbid QIZ (EPZ) abandoned 17 Jordanian and 151 Bengali workers without any pay or benefits. According to the Textile Union, the problem began when a supervisor had beaten a worker on January 22 in a dispute over vacation and financial requests. Ninety-three Bangladeshi workers staged a work stoppage that day in protest. The next day, workers returned to work to find the factory gates closed and to learn that the owner had fled the country. The government took nearly one month to respond to the union's complaint, finally beginning to provide some food and shelter for the abandoned workers. An investigation revealed that the employer had been preparing to leave the country for several months and had deliberately provoked the workers to strike.

The Textile Union has been following up with the Ministry of Labour about the workers' situations; 85 of the workers wanted to return home, while 56 had work permits that had just expired. However, the Minister of Labour has announced that the workers are only entitled to 22 days pay and unused vacation leave because the strike was illegal.

Unionists beaten for helping migrants: Some 130 Sri Lankan female workers from the Al.Masader / Mediterranean Factory in the Al Dulayl QIZ (EPZ) went on strike on 1 March in protest against being forced to live without heat, hot water or electricity. As management had refused to solve the problem, a local union set up a team of 10 representatives to resolve the dispute. However, a group of organised men beat one of the union activists, threatening to throw him from the dormitory roof unless he agreed to not meet with the female workers again. A complaint was made against the gang but police refused to intervene. The unionists finally arranged a resolution and workers returned to work on 8 March. There have been similar reports of organised gangs who threaten workers and try to destabilise the relationship between the union and the workers.

Migrant workers – underpaid, overworked and abused: In June, a textile union organiser visited the Al Kada Factory to speak with 20 Indian migrant workers. The migrants were working illegally without work or residency papers and their passports had been confiscated by the factory owner. They were forced to live in a shop locked at night with only small amounts of poor quality food. The Textile Workers Union intervened on their behalf with the employer to legalize the workers and improve their conditions. On 27 July, the Jordan textile union led a protest for 193 migrant workers from Al.Masader Factory in the Al Dulayl QIZ (EPZ) who have not received wages or compensation for three months, in spite of government promises to resolve the situation. The workers not been paid for three months, and the company had cut the water and electricity to their dormitories, and refused to pay for airline tickets home. An earlier protest for non payment of wages was held on 14 July when 50 Jordanians complained to the Ministry.

Garment workers – beaten and deported for striking: Reports emerged of abuse of migrant workers in various companies including the Israeli owned Musa Garment Factory. Workers at the Musa factory complained of forced overtime, beatings, insufficient food, the illegal withholding of passports and other abuses amounting to conditions of forced labour. However, when workers protested they were instead beaten by police, arrested and then deported to their home countries just days after assurances from the Ministry of labour that no action would be taken against them for six months pending an investigation. Several remained in prison.

Public port workers win right to form a union after violent attacks: Around 3,000 workers in the port of Aqaba in Jordan have won the right to belong to an independent union following a dispute over pay and conditions. Public sector workers have until now been banned from union membership. The workers, represented by an employees' committee, organised a sit-in in the state-owned port of Aqaba for two weeks in August, bringing activities to a standstill. Police attacks took place during the action and a number of workers were injured, one seriously. Six union committee members were also arrested and subsequently released.

Negotiations to end the dispute, mediated by Mazen Ma'aytah, general secretary of the General Federation of Jordanian Trade Unions, and monitored by the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) led to a guarantee – for the first time – that workers have the right to belong to their own elected union. Government also offered a pay package that met the workers' demands.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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