Global Unions Urge Jordan to Withdraw Harsh Labor Laws

Global Unions Urge Jordan to Withdraw Harsh Labor Laws

Jordan’s Senate is set to consider amendments to the country’s labor code that will restrict worker’ fundamental rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining and that fail to address Jordan’s longstanding limitations on worker rights, according to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which is joined by global unions in condemning the proposal and urging legislators to withdraw it.

The amendments, passed in recent weeks by the country’s House of Representatives, increase restrictions on freedom of association by requiring the Ministry of Labor to approve union bylaws when they register with the government. The amendments also give the Labor Ministry the authority to dissolve unions and impose fines and imprisonment for those who continue union activities for a dissolved union.

(Tell the Jordan government to bring the country’s labor laws in line with international standards.)

Since 1976, no new trade union has been allowed to form in Jordan, which also prohibits migrant workers—who comprise a large portion of the Jordanian workforce—from forming unions. Jordan labor laws also permit unions in only 17 sectors set by the government, and only one union per sector is allowed to represent workers. Most recently, the government rejected the registration of an independent union in the agriculture sector because agriculture is not on the government’s list.

The International Labor Organization (ILO), which also sent Jordan’s minister a memo detailing the amendments’ violations of international labor law, has repeatedly pointed out Jordan’s failure abide by ILO conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Independent unions in Jordan are also pushing back on the proposed amendments, with workers protesting at parliament and union leaders writing open letters to the government urging lawmakers follow international labor standards.

Read the Jordan Federation of Independent Trade Unions press release and letter (Arabic) and the Jordanian Network for Human Rights letter (Arabic).

Dying for a Job: Commemorating the Anniversary of the 2012 Tazreen Factory Fire

Dying for a Job: Commemorating the Anniversary of the 2012 Tazreen Factory Fire

Four million garment workers, mostly women, toil in 5,000 factories across Bangladesh, making the country’s $25 billion garment industry the world’s second largest, after China.

Wages are the lowest among major garment-manufacturing nations, while the cost of living in Dhaka is equivalent to that of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Luxembourg and Montreal.

The workers receive few or no benefits and often struggle to support their families. Many risk their lives to make a living.

On November 24, 2012, a massive fire tore through the Tazreen Fashions Ltd. factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, killing more than 110 garment workers and gravely injuring thousands more.

In the wake of this disaster, garment workers throughout Bangladesh are standing up for their rights to safe workplaces and living wages. With the Solidarity Center, which partners with unions and other organizations to educate workers about their rights on the job, garment workers are empowered with the tools they need to improve their workplaces together.

Learn more about the Solidarity Center’s work in the global garment industry

 

DISASTER STRIKES TAZREEN

Bangladesh, Tazreen, fire safety, garment worker, Solidarity Center

Tahera Tahera cannot remember much about her life before the day she was trapped in the Tazreen fire. She is unable to care for her four-year-old son and rarely comes out of her room. “It seems to me that something dark comes to my door and is calling me,” she says. “When I see the darkness, I become unstable and want to go far away from here,” she said.

On November 24, 2012, women and men working overtime on the Tazreen production lines were trapped when fire broke out in the first-floor warehouse. Workers scrambled toward the roof, jumped from upper floors or were trampled by their panic-stricken co-workers. Some could not run fast enough and were lost to the flames and smoke.

Hundreds of those injured at Tazreen, like Tahera (above), will never be able to work again. Survivors say they endure daily physical and emotional pain, and often are unable to support their families because they cannot work and have received little or no compensation.

Some 80 percent of export-oriented ready made garment (RMG) factories in Bangladesh need improvement in fire and electrical safety standards, despite a government finding most were safe, according to a recent International Labor Organization (ILO) report.

TAZREEN NOT UNIQUE

The Tazreen fire was not an isolated incident. Months after the Tazreen disaster, more than 1,000 garment workers were killed when the Rana Plaza building collapsed.

Approximately 2,500 people were injured—many of them losing limbs and thousands more severely traumatized.

Workers were forced to return to the building despite the warnings of structural engineers that the building was unsound.

On the five-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse, women garment workers rally in Savar, Bangladesh with the relatives of those who died or were grievously injured. Credit: Solidarity Center/Musfiq Tajwar

FACTORIES CAN BE MADE SAFE

From November, 2012 to March, 2018, Bangladesh’s garment sector has suffered 3,875 injuries and 1,303 deaths due to fires, building collapses and other tragedies, according to data collected by the Solidarity Center.

The Tazreen fire and Rana Plaza collapse were preventable. Workers at Tazreen and Rana Plaza did not have a union or other organization to represent them and help them fight for a safe workplace.

Without a union, garment workers often are harassed or fired when they ask their employer to fix workplace safety and health conditions.

They are not trained in basic fire safety measures and often their factories, like Tazreen, have locked emergency doors and stairwells packed with flammable material.

Unions have helped to improve these conditions.

A young woman protests garment worker deaths in Bangladesh. Credit: Solidarity Center/Sifat Sharmin Amita

WORKERS DEMAND CHANGE

Garment workers throughout Bangladesh have staged rallies to demand that multinational corporations respect their human rights.

Women rally for their rights with labor rights organization and Solidarity Center partner Awaj Foundation near the Dhaka Press Club on May 1, 2018. Credit: Solidarity Center/Musfiq Tajwar

They have joined together to form workplace unions and bargain for safe working conditions, better wages and respect on the job.

Credit: Solidarity Center

WORKERS STAND TOGETHER

When workers stand together, they can make their voices heard without fear.

The Solidarity Center partners with numerous unions and worker associations in Bangladesh. Credit: Solidarity Center

UNIONS SAVING LIVES

Worker voices have yielded real results.

Over the past few years, the Solidarity Center has held fire safety trainings for hundreds of garment factory workers.

Workers learn fire prevention measures, find out about safety equipment their factories should make available and get hands-on experience in extinguishing fires.

The Solidarity Center has also trained more than 6,000 union leaders and workers in fire safety, helping to empower factory-floor-level workers to monitor for hazardous
working conditions and demand safety violations be corrected.

Union leaders participate in the Solidarity Center’s 10-week fire safety certification course. Credit: Solidarity Center

Union leaders participate in the Solidarity Center’s 10-week fire safety certification course. Credit: Solidarity Center

CHANGE IS POSSIBLE

Salma (below), a garment worker, and her co-workers faced stiff employer resistance when they sought to form a union.

With assistance from the Solidarity Center and the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation (BGIWF), to which their factory union is affiliated, workers negotiated a wage increase, maternity benefits and safe drinking water.

The factory now is clean, has adequate fire extinguishers on every floor, and a fire door has replaced a collapsible gate.

More than five years later, 445 factories with over 216,000 workers have unions to represent their interests and protect their rights.

Salma, a garment factory union leader in Bangladesh, says with a union, the factory is safer and workers have better wages. Credit: Solidarity Center

CHANGES ARE POSSIBLE IF YOU HAVE UNION AND YOU CAN MAKE IT WORK.” – SALMA

Garment workers learn fire safety and other measures to improve their working conditions. Credit: Solidarity Center

INVISIBLE NO LONGER

When women workers form unions, they improve their working conditions. Through Solidarity Center workshops and leadership training, more women are running for union office.

Women now make up more than 61 percent of union leadership in newly formed factory level-unions.

As workers strengthen their collective voice in their workplaces and beyond, their hard work, their lives and their humanity become visible once more.

Bipasha, Quality Inspector (bottom left). Rina, Operator (bottom right) . Ratan, Tailor (top right). Credit: Solidarity Center

Mahfuza, Assistant Operator (top right). Sharifa, General Operator (bottom right). Credit: Solidarity Center

To learn more about garment workers in global supply chains and how the Solidarity Center supports them, visit solidaritycenter.org.

Solidarity Center Turns 20!

Solidarity Center Turns 20!

Evangelina Argüeta Chinchilla, Angel Miguel Conde Tapia, Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau, Rep. Karen Bass and Leonila Murillo celebrating the organization’s 20th Anniversary.

AFL-CIO, Liz Shuler, Sander Levin, Solidarity Center, human rights

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler and Rep. Sander Levin.

Rep. Karen Bass, Solidarity Center, human rights

Rep. Karen Bass (right) celebrates Solidarity Center honorees Eva Argueta, Miguel Conde, and Leonila Murillo.

Shawna Bader-Blau, Solidarity Center, human rights

SC 20th Event.SBB.Leonila Murillo.11.15.17.Imagine Photography

Solidarity Center, UAW

UAW’s Darius Sivin and David Yang, former deputy assistant Administrator in USAID Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance

Kevin Collins from Amalgamated Bank, a top Solidarity Center sponsor

UFCW, Solidarity Center, Shawna Bader-Blau

Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau and Randy Parraz of the UFCW, a top Solidarity Center sponsor

Cathy Feingold, AFL-CIO, Lisa McGowan, Solidarity Center, gender equality

AFL-CIO International Director Cathy Feingold and Lisa McGowan, Solidarity Center

AFT, Solidarity Center

Representatives of AFT, a Solidarity Center event sponsor.

Ironworkers,Ullico, Solidarity Center

Ed Smith of Ullico, a generous Solidarity Center sponsor; Bernie Evers, president of the Ironworkers, a top Solidarity Center sponsor; Bama Athreya from USAID and David Yang, former deputy assistant Administrator in USAID Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance

Representatives from Ullico, a generous Solidarity Center sponsor.

Solidarity Center Legal Director .Jeff Vogt, U.S. Senate staff Thomas Richards, Mark Mittelhauser, associate deputy undersecretary for International Affairs at the U.S. Labor Department Bureau of International Labor Affairs and Carol Pier, former deputy undersecretary for international affairs at U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs

Solidarity Center

AFGE Vice President Dan Doyle, Liz Cattaneo from Jobs with Justice and Gregg James, AFGE vice president

CWA, Solidarity Center

Representatives from CWA, one of many Solidarity Center sponsors

Solidarity Center

Joe Gleason and Steve Moody

Solidarity Center

Solidarity Center

Sarah Fox, former representative of the U.S. State Department and Barbara Shailor, former representative of the U.S. Labor Department

Ford Foundation, Solidarity Center

Chris Neff, executive assistant to AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler and Laine Alston Romero of the Ford Foundation

InterAction, Solidarity Center

Sam Worthington from InterAction and Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau

Solidarity Center

Harry Kamberis, Barbara Haig and Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau

Solidarity Center

Former Solidarity Center Acting Director Nancy Mills

Solidarity Center

AFL-CIO, Liz Shuler, Tefere Gebre

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler and AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre

Former AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt-Baker and Solidarity Center Organizational and Leadership Development Director Al Davidoff

Scott Nova, Solidarity Center, Worker Rights Consortium

Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau and Worker Rights Consortium Director Scott Nova

Solidarity Center

Mark Hankin, formerly of the Solidarity Center, and NED President Carl Gershman

Harry Kamberis, Cathy Feingold, AFL-CIO, Sander Levin, Shawna Bader-Blau

Founding Solidarity Center Executive Director Harry Kamberis, AFL-CIO International Director Cathy Feingold, Rep. Sander Levin and Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau

Solidarity Center

Solidarity Center staff Paata Beltadze (Georgia), Olena Mykhalchenko, Labor Initiatives (Ukraine), Tatyana Solodovnyk (Ukraine) and Guranda Ghoghoberidze (Georgia).

Solidarity Center, Shawna Bader-Blau

Solidarity Center, Lisa McGowan

Solidarity Center

Solidarity Center

Solidarity Center

AFT, Solidarity Center

Solidarity Center

Sarah MacKenzie, director of Solidarity Center Trade Union Strengthening, Ann Hanin, and Elly Kugler of NDWA

Solidarity Center

Cambodia Draft Minimum Wage Law: Guts Basic Freedoms

Cambodia Draft Minimum Wage Law: Guts Basic Freedoms

Cambodia’s draft minimum wage law would prohibit unions and other civil-society organizations from contesting the country’s minimum wage and would go so far as to restrict their ability to even conduct research to craft minimum wage options, according to a legal analysis by the Solidarity Center and its partners.

“As it stands, the draft could potentially criminalize all forms of protest in relation to the minimum wage, which has been the motivation for some of the biggest demonstrations in recent memory,” says Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), which analyzed the draft.

“It is an affront to the constitutionally protected fundamental freedoms of expression, association and assembly, and must not proceed,” he says. (The analysis is available in English and Khmer.)

The law also would exclude many categories of workers, including domestic workers, civil servants, some transportation workers and workers in the informal economy.

Draft Law Blocks Worker & Union Input

“The government has routinely criminalized legitimate trade union conduct, in violation of international human rights law. The vague prohibition of ‘illegal acts’ in regard to pressuring the government over the minimum wage would seriously undermine the legitimate work of labor activists,” explains Jeff Vogt, legal director of the Solidarity Center’s rule of law department.

The analysis also notes that the draft law’s processes for wage-setting do not guarantee union participation and give significant discretion to the labor minister to set minimum wages based on employment sector and geographic region, which threatens “to undercut the objectives and spirit of the law.”

Minimum Wage for Garment Workers Not a Living Wage

In recent years, tens of thousands of garment workers across Cambodia, most of them women, waged a series of mass protests demanding a living wage.

A 2015 study of garment workers and their expenditures, conducted by labor rights groups, including the Solidarity Center, indicated that garment workers earned far less than they need to cover expenses. Although the minimum wage for garment and footwear workers rose this year to $153 per month, up from $140, some union representatives says it still falls far short of a fair living wage.

The analysis recommends amendments and additions to the draft law that would bring it in line with international human rights law and constitutional human rights guarantees. The Solidarity Center, CCHR and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) compared the draft law with international standards and best practices, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and International Labor Organization conventions.

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