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Organisation reports abuse of workers at QIZ garment factories

By Laila Azzeh - Jul 27,2016 - Last updated at Jul 27,2016

AMMAN — A legal aid organisation has condemned the “undignified” work conditions some labourers experience in the Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZ), citing violations recently discovered at the  two garment factories.

Tamkeen Fields for Aid, a legal aid organisation based in Amman, said it checked the work environment of employees at the QIZ after receiving “hundreds of complaints”. 

“Workers at some of the industrial zones suffer from very difficult work conditions. They live in crowded housing units, cook their food in the hallways and work for long hours, while being deprived of their pay and having their passports seized by their employers,” Tamkeen Director Linda Kalash told The Jordan Times. 

Moreover, she noted that some employers refuse to renew labourers’ work permits, putting their legal status at risk.

“Most of the workers do not have copies of their contracts… violations also include verbal or physical abuse. In Ramadan, labourers had to work from 7am until 11pm, and were only given a 45-minute break during iftar time,” according to Tamkeen. 

“Some factories are becoming a fertile environment for forced labour and human trafficking,” Kalash charged, calling on the Labour Ministry to intensify inspection campaigns in the QIZ factories. 

She underlined the need to protect guest workers, who are the most vulnerable to insults, threats and deprivation, in addition to other forms of inhumane treatment. 

“We urge authorities to amend and activate legislation that protects the workers and expedite ruling in labour dispute cases,” said Kalash.

According to documents received by Tamkeen, guest workers from Bangladesh and India have been complaining in the last two months over alleged mistreatment by plant owners.

If proven, the abuses, which include bad accommodation, long work hours, humiliation and exploitation, might be considered human trafficking crimes, the organisation said.

“There are strong indicators that the violations committed by the two factories in question fall under human trafficking activities according to Jordanian law,” Tamkeen added.  

Meanwhile, the Jordan Industrial Estates Company (JIEC), which manages the QIZ, said it has started following up on the violations in the two factories and will refer them to judicial authorities if it is proven that they committed any of the abuses mentioned in the Tamkeen report.

“Even if proven, those are individual cases that cannot be generalised to include all the zones’ factories. We will follow up on the issue with the concerned authorities, for we at the company pay special attention to human rights and will not in any form tolerate abusing the rights of workers,” JIEC Chief Executive Jalal Al Debei told The Jordan Times by e-mail. 

Stressing the company’s commitment to providing work opportunities and ensuring investment sustainability in the zones, he noted that creating a safe and stable work environment for labourers is of the utmost priority.

Debei noted that there are offices located at the zones that are responsible for monitoring factories around-the-clock to make sure they abide by safety standards and procedures for employing guest workers.

 

“The offices are also responsible for protecting the rights of workers,” he added.

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