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).
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.