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Ministry releases report on domestic guest workers

Khatib said that 13 offices were shut down over the past two years and 63 warnings issued over violations of regulations

By Ana V. Ibáñez Prieto - Sep 06,2018 - Last updated at Sep 06,2018

AMMAN — The Ministry of Labour on Wednesday issued a report on the current status of the domestic sector, which showed that some 58,262 domestic guest workers now reside in Jordan with valid work permits. 

The report also said that a total of 971 complaints within the sector were submitted during the past year, 814 of which have been settled up to this point. 

Asked about the nature of the complaints, Ministry of Labour spokesperson, Mohammad Al Khatib, told The Jordan Times that most complaints submitted to the Directorate of Domestic Workers at the ministry were related to administrative issues arising between the domestic worker’s employer and the hiring office. 

“Conflicts concerning the delay of wages, long working hours, forced labour or exposure to violence fall under the responsibility of the Public Security Department [PSD],” the official added, noting that a committee within the Ministry of Labour is now studying the possibility of establishing a shelter for domestic workers who have fallen victim to abuse. 

“Domestic guest workers have left behind their parents and children in order to provide a decent living for themselves and their families.” Khatib pointed out, calling on employers to “provide a decent and healthy working environment for domestic workers and treat them according to Jordanian customs and traditions”.

Khatib said that 13 offices were shut down over the past two years for violations of regulations and instructions, 63 warnings were also issued over the same period. 

“The ministry will pursue all unlicensed offices,” the official warned on a statement, noting that such facilities “may have a role in inciting employees to refuse to work and run away to smuggle them to work elsewhere, taking advantage of their weakness and their lack of knowledge of the Jordanian labour laws”.

“Some unlicensed offices lure workers to leave their workplace in order to achieve more financial benefit,” Khatib explained, stressing that the ministry’s inspection teams have often seized offices and transferred them to the judiciary.

A total of 3,492 cases of refusal to work or running from the household were registered by the ministry over the past two years, according to the report. 

Khaled Hseinat, president of the Domestic Helpers Recruitment Association, said that the union is “ready to cooperate with the Ministry of Labour in a manner that takes into account the interests of employers and offices while ensuring maximum compliance with the Labour Law”.

The official pointed out the role of the union in processing complaints coming from workers and employers through a committee formed for this purpose. The official said that the association will coordinate with the Ministry of Labour to “take legal action against violators in order to preserve the reputation of the sector”. 

“The committee also works to follow up on the issues experienced by workers, providing assistance to employees in the event that it is proven that violations were committed either by employers or the offices,” Hseinat said. 

“The syndicate will constantly inform the ministry about such offices,” he continued, stressing that many of these offices have been seized by the ministry’s cadres and legal action has been taken against them.

Director of the migrant rights group, Tamkeen Fields for Aid, Linda Al Kalash called on authorities and other stakeholders to not regard the employees who refuse to work or escape as “runaways”, warning of violations to workers’ right to resign.

“Domestic helpers live isolated, deprived from their freedom of movement and access to their personal documents and belongings including work permits, passports and mobile phones, which their employers confiscate,” director of the Justice Centre for Legal Aid, Hadeel Abdul Aziz, told The Jordan Times in March. “This makes them unable to speak up to demand their rights or report labour exploitations.”

“The domestic sector is still not well organised and no statistics exist in order to depict the situation of irregular guest workers,” Kalash said, warning that domestic workers still face violations such as unpaid wages, ill-treatment, confiscation of passports, long working hours, lack of days off or sick leave and deprivation from contact with their families.

“A very good legal framework exists in Jordan, as domestic workers are recognised under the Labour Law and bilateral agreements rule the relationship between Jordan and their countries of origin — but not all of this is applied on the ground.” She explained, calling on authorities to implement effective inspections and complaint systems. 

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