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AMMAN, Jordan–Better Work Jordan will renew its focus on improving the structural integrity of worker dormitories, a crucial element of worker well-being, health and safety. Last week, the Project Advisory Committee (PAC) of Better Work Jordan discussed the state of employment in the sector and have delineated the dormitory update as a priority.
Holding their 47th meeting face-to-face after 18 months of meeting virtually due to COVID-19, PAC members also examined observations from Better Work Jordan about long working hours and inadequate rest periods for workers.
In 2020, Better Work Jordan commissioned an engineering consulting firm to assess the structural integrity of a sample of 14 dormitories housing over 45,000 workers, identify areas for upgrades, and propose guidelines for future dorm construction. The firm identified several issues, which Better Work Jordan is building a strategy to address.
At the meeting, Haitham Al Najdawi, head of the Inspection Department of the Ministry of Labour, said inspectors observed violations including use of buildings when the Government of Jordan did not authorise it.
“The Ministry of Health has authorised the Ministry of Labour to inspect dormitories in the garment sector and ensure they conform to safety regulations,” said Al Najdawi.
The garment sector employs around 65,000 workers, the majority of whom are women and migrants from South Asia. Migrant workers live in dormitories on the industrial campuses almost without exception.
According to the 12th Annual Report of Better Work Jordan, in which 88 factories are enrolled, 36 per cent of factories did not meet the minimum space requirements for dorms.
Observations on working conditions
Beyond monitoring the compliance of participating factories, Better Work Jordan also tracks hours of work.
Better Work Jordan Programme Manager, Tareq Abu Qaoud, said working hours at some factories increased to 16 hours a day during the COVID-19 pandemic, which means more than 72 hours a week.
“The programme received complaints from workers that they do not get rest days for a month. According to the Jordanian Labour Law, working time is 48 hours a week,” Abu Qaoud told the meeting.
Dina Khayyat, vice chairperson of the Jordanian Garment, Accessories and Textiles Exporters’ Association (J-GATE) suggested sending letters to employers to address the issue, in partnership with the union.
“The letters should emphasise the need for commitment to worker rights and contractual obligations, including legal working hours, and for ensuring a better work environment,” Khayyat said.
Other PAC discussions
Discussions covered a cooperation memorandum of understanding (MoU) singed between the International Labour Organization (ILO)/Better Work Jordan and the Jordan Chamber of Industry (JCI) to increase the performance and competitiveness of factories, and improve their compliance with the Labour Law and ILO standards.
The PAC explored a national plan of action to develop Jordanian human capital and the business environment in the apparel industry. It also discussed a strategy developed by the General Trade Union of Workers in Textile, Garment and Clothing Industries to strengthen its role and enhance labour rights.
These discussions and decisions have far-reaching repercussions throughout the apparel sector in Jordan. The garment industry in has seen significant growth in the last ten years. Garment exports in 2020 were valued at USD 1.6 billion and made up 22 per cent of all exports.