Industry Update/National Response
- As of the second week in May, 69 factories participating in Better Work had resumed production, representing collective employment of approximately 56,000 workers. Ten of these factories are considered “satellite units,” located outside of the principal industrial zones.
- On 3 May, the union office at Al Hasan industrial zone resumed work. The union staff in the industrial zone are following up with factories on workers’ complaints after their gradual return to production.
- The Eid Al Fitr holiday will be observed from the morning of Saturday, May 23, until the evening of Monday, May 25. As the public sector will resume work after Eid Al Fitr Holiday, the government released a set of guidelines streamlining the prospective resumption of work in the public sector in light of the COVID-19 situation. There is a work stoppage for ministries and public departments until the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
- The Prime Minister decided to resume trading in the Amman Stock Exchange (ASE) as of Sunday, 10 May 2020.
- The government has announced the resumption of all economic sectors as of 6 May 2020, including those that were not allowed to operate fully during the lockdown. The sectors will be permitted to work at full production capacity provided that the percentage of Jordanian employment in the establishment does not fall below 75 per cent. The government is easing lockdown restrictions by extending the mobility hours window from 8am until 7pm.
- Defence Order No. 11 released on 3 May 2020 addresses the government’s social distancing instructions to gradually relax curfew restrictions to allow various productive, service, economic and commercial sectors to operate, and compel business owners, citizens and residents to apply preventive and precautionary methods to reduce practices that may cause transmission of infection among people.
- The Jordanian government announced on 3 May defence order no. 10 related to extending the submission period of the tax returns and tax dues to the Income and Sales Tax Department during the official holiday until end of June 2020.
- On 26 April, the government launched an online platform for migrant workers to apply to return to their home countries. Regardless of legal status, applicants will be exempted from overstaying or any work permit fees due to the current situation in the kingdom. Based on a statement by the Ministry of Labour, foreign workers in Jordan wishing to leave the Kingdom amid the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to withdraw their social security benefits before their departure. Foreign workers will be able to receive their financial entitlements after registering their application through Hemayeh platform and obtaining the MoL approval on their requests.
- As of 22 April, 55 factories partially resumed work inside industrial zones. Production resumed in satellite units in rural areas with 50 percent of the workforce provided that factories heed the safety instructions and QIZ Standard of operation procedure issued by the MoL on 27 March 2020. Several garment factories are producing facemasks.
- The government has announced a number of defence orders to protect people’s wellbeing and rights. The recently issued defence order number (6) aims to ensure minimum layoffs and addresses conditions for institutions and individuals to benefit from support programmes in light of the economic challenges caused by the pandemic crisis. Defence order 9 released on 16 April aims to ensure livelihood and job stability for workers and support the private sector through setting up a programme for protecting businesses, freelance workers and daily wage workers.
- The government has provided additional guidance, including initial financial support such as suspending some provisions of social security payments. Companies have the option of stopping contributions to the Old Age Program (keeping only disability and health insurance) for March-May 2020. Where firms choose to do so (they have the option to do so for all or some employees only), they will only pay a 5.25% contribution rate, instead of 21.75%. All employees will still be covered with Disability, Death, Unemployment, and Maternity insurance. Those employees who would be affected by a change in payments by their employer will still be able to contribute voluntarily during this period. Firms will also be given the choice to pay contributions in instalments until the end of 2023.
- The government also issued safety instructions to prevent the spread of coronavirus for employers and employees. The nine guidelines relate to grocery shops and supermarkets, drinking water bottles, gas cylinder transportation, bakeries, shopping centres and supermarkets that sell food supplies, the distributors of food supplies (home delivery), a shopper’s guide, a pharmacies guide and a guide for large industrial institutions. Better Work Jordan supported the translation of the guide to large industrial establishments to English and disseminated it to the union and employers’ associations in the apparel industry.
- The Ministry of Labor has announced a number of measures to ensure the protection of workers health and labor rights. It has established a hotline to receive complaints from workers on labor violations, and issued nine guides for vital sectors on COVID19 safety measures (i.e. food supplies, shopping, bakeries, pharmacies, grocery, water, gas, salary transfer, industrial establishments). Better Work Jordan supported the translation of the guide to large industrial establishments to English and disseminated it to the union and employers’ associations in the apparel industry.
- Amid the growing developments related to the pandemic, The Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) launched a JD500 million soft financing programme to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The central bank also introduced measures related to restructuring of loans to individuals and institutions.
- The government is promoting e-wallets, which will ensure wage payment as well as health safety since wages will not be paid in cash/paper bills. To date, 159,000 e-wallets have been created over a span of one month.
- The government and the Social Security Corporation (SSC) are putting plans to protect all workers that are working in the formal and informal sector – depending on the status of the enterprise (i.e. enterprises that need temporary support to sustain its business during the crises, and enterprises that are closing down). These measures may include: the utilization of the unemployment fund to pay wages for the employees that lost their jobs, employees their employers has currently no capacity to cover wages for, daily workers, and subscribers in SSC on a voluntary basis. The unemployment fund; and the possibility of using other funds available at the CBJ.
- During the previous curfew period from 19-31 March, all employees have been considered on paid leave regardless if they were teleworking or not. The government has also decided to suspend the annual salary increase for employees of public, civil and military institutions, excluding civil and military retirees, for 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19 on the state budget.
- Travel to and from Jordan has been restricted since 17 March until further notice.
- As of 11 May, the Ministry of Health reported 562 confirmed coronavirus cases in the country.
- As of late April, small businesses are gradually re-opening; this includes financial auditors, tax and accounting consultancy firms, barbershops, beauty salons, dry cleaning shops, cosmetics and watch and shoe repair shops.
- Public swimming pools, sports clubs, places of worship, wedding halls, parks, amusement parks, places of entertainment, cinemas and party, festival, conference and exhibition planning companies, will remain closed. The government also announced the resumption of all means of public transport within every governorate at a seating capacity of 50 per cent and according to the regulations specified by the Ministry of Transport. As of 10 May, The odd/even plate driving system will be cancelled and all citizens will be allowed to use their vehicles in every governorate until 6pm daily.
- To learn more about the government’s COVID-19 response and labour-related defence orders and regulations, please follow this link.
Factory Service Update
- As of early May, Better Work delivered seven sessions of virtual training sessions on workplace communication to union labour committee members. Upcoming training sessions, based on factory request, include:
- Training for PICC committees
- Customized supervisory skills training (SST)
- Factory visits, including assessments, are suspended until further notice.
- The Better Work Jordan team is delivering virtual advisory services to management.
- In the absence of union activities, Better Work consultants are conducting calls to workers in their dormitories to raise awareness on the pandemic. As of 22 April, around 700 calls were conducted to migrant workers in their housing facilities.
- Better Work Jordan has commenced virtual training services to factories.
Additional Better Work Activities
- As factories in the southern region of the factory are gradually returning to business, Better Work Jordan resumes collaboration with MoL. Through a secondment programme, the MoL Labour inspectors are conducting visits to factories in the areas and Better Work Jordan Enterprise Advisors are conducing virtual calls with factory management.
- Better Work Jordan is liaising with all stakeholders to limit the impact on workers and business and identify a collective approach to support the industry. Upcoming training sessions include:
- Workplace Communication
- Covid-19 awareness raising
- Sexual Harassment Prevention
- Personal Hygiene
- Advanced PICC training