The Global State of Workers' Rights - Jordan


Workers have the right to organize and bargain collectively. Labor groups must be associated with professions and sectors where unions already exist, and all unions belong to the General Federation of Jordanian Trade Unions (GFJTU), which receives government subsidies. Given the pervasiveness of state influence in labor affairs, unions' views tend to be homogeneous. More than 30 percent of the workforce is organized into 17 recognized unions.

Workers must receive government permission to strike, which is granted only after a mediation and arbitration process and with 14 days' notice. The Wage Authority and the judiciary are responsible for arbitration but are slow in settling labor disputes.

The 1996 labor law limits workers' weekly hours and monthly overtime hours. It also guarantees workers paid leave, social benefits, and protection from certain kinds of dismissal, but it excludes non-Jordanians as well as agricultural and household workers. A 2002 amendment to the law extended coverage to some agricultural workers, and a 2008 amendment extended protection to household workers, although ministerial regulations for implementing that change were still under consideration in 2009. A separate labor law governs public-sector employees, most of whom do not have the right to strike.

As many as 25 percent of Jordanian workers are employed in the informal sector and lack the legal protections and benefits of their formal-sector counterparts. Labor unions do not exist in the informal sector.

Through an agreement with the United States, Jordan operates 13 Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZs) with over 50 factories. QIZ products enter the United States duty and quota free, and the zones are exempt from income and social-service taxes. Labor violations are common in the QIZs; many of the workers are foreign and therefore outside the coverage of the labor law. They are often forced to work extended hours without pay, sign contracts that differ from promises made at the time of employment, and go for long periods without being paid. While workers sometimes strike illegally, foreign workers do so at the risk of deportation.

In early 2009, a foreign QIZ factory owner left the country without paying his Jordanian and foreign workers their wages or compensating them for past vacation days. While the government and the Ministry of Labor attempted to resolve their grievances, little could be done since the owner had fled Jordan. Another set of workers struck in July, claiming that their supervisor had abused them and that conditions in their dormitories were poor. The government ruled their strike illegal.

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