AMMAN, Jordan – The Project Advisory Committee (PAC) of the Better Work Jordan programme met on September 18 to discuss the most urgent issues for the Jordanian garment industry. The Ministry of Labour’s latest regulations on occupational safety and health (OSH) were the top item on the PAC’s agenda.
The meeting brought together representatives from various organizations, including the Ministry of Labour (MoL), the Jordan Garments, Accessories, and Textiles Exporters’ Association (JGATE), the General Trade Union of Workers in Textile, Garment, and Clothing Industries (GTU), the Jordan Chamber of Industry (JCI), the US Embassy in Jordan, the National Centre for Human Rights (NCHR), and the International Labour Organization (ILO). Other discussions included the 2023 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), as well as the use of heavy machinery and digital wage payments.
Enhancing occupational safety and health
The PAC reviewed Regulations No. 31, 32, and 33 of 2023, passed in August, which pertain to hazard prevention, preventive and curative medical care for workers, and the establishment of occupational safety and health committees, respectively.
The first regulation tightened OSH standards, including the requirement of a risk assessment for enterprises with a workforce exceeding 20 employees, including identifying workers exposed to potential risks and implementing protective and preventive measures. The regulation also mandates the provision of general safety guidelines within their premises and the monitoring of accidents.
The second regulation requires enterprises to improve medical care and coverage of on-site workers, including appointment of part-time physicians and nurses or contracting with hospitals or health centres to provide healthcare services to their workforce. It places an obligation on enterprises to ensure healthy and suitable conditions for employees with disabilities, those with special healthcare needs, and pregnant workers. The regulation aligns the number of medical staff within enterprises with the workforce size and the level of risk associated with activities.
The final regulation categorizes OSH supervisors in two levels: technical and specialist. The issuance of professional practice certificates for each level and the determination of the required qualifications are entrusted to the Technical and Vocational Skills Development Commission (TVSDC). The regulation delineates the responsibilities associated with each level and correlates the number of safety supervisors with the workforce size within enterprises and the risk levels associated with economic activities. The regulation also mandates the establishment of occupational safety and health committees.
Tareq Abu Qaoud, Program Manager of Better Work Jordan, emphasised the significance of these regulations and the role of the MoL in collaborating with employer organizations and the GTU to enact them. Abu Qaoud said: “We hope that such collaborations between the MoL and the private sector continue to ensure a clear understanding of the new instructions and regulations, allowing the private sector sufficient time for implementation.”
Ihab Qadri, representing the leather and garment sector in the JCI, advocated for the “adoption of professional licenses instead of company registration to implement these regulations, enabling enterprises and their branches to comply with the provisions of the regulations”.
OSH in use of heavy machinery
The meeting also delved into the risks associated with the operation of heavy machinery and equipment, including various types of boilers. Notably, the Better Work Jordan team highlighted that there have been five significant accidents related to boilers and elevators in garment factories since 2017.
In addressing these accidents, the programme initiated a workshop aimed at raising awareness about OSH in boiler operation and conducted a study to examine the legal framework for safety concerning the use of heavy machinery in garment factories. This study recommended the inclusion of these heavy machines in new safety regulations and the training of personnel on these regulations.
Ali Omran, Chairman of JGATE, noted that the association worked closely with the MoL to establish communication with all factories, ensuring the application of international standards and regulations for the safety of these boilers. He added that JGATE had submitted a comprehensive technical package to the MoL, detailing the inspection and evaluation of boilers for approval by the MoL Labour Inspection Directorate.
“We are in agreement regarding the necessity of having a trained and qualified maintenance team at every factory. These teams should conduct regular inspections of boiler conditions, perform studies and assessments, train maintenance staff in ensuring the safety of these machines, and have their work audited by a specialized third party,” he said.
A new Collective Bargaining Agreement
The PAC also examined the 2023 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for the country’s garment industry, signed by the GTU, the Association of Owners of Factories, Workshops, and Garments (AOFWG), and JGATE on 17 August 2023. This agreement included amendments and additions related to the payment date for production incentive bonuses, transportation allowances, alternatives for childcare services for workers with children, providing meals for Jordanian workers, and licensing requirements for clinics.
Sanal Kumar, a member of JGATE and chairman of a garment company, said “the CBA amendments included upgrades to health clinics and the introduction of new provisions for childcare services, safe transportation for Jordanian workers, and transportation allowances.”
Digital wage payments
During the meeting, the Better Work Jordan team presented preliminary findings of a survey focused on digital wage payments for Jordanian workers employed at satellite units of garment factories. A separate study published in October 2021 revealed that around 30 per cent of Jordanian workers were still receiving their wages in cash.
The new survey revealed that 96 per cent of Jordanian workers now receive their wages through digital means, with the majority expressing satisfaction with this method. Most of the respondents were women.
However, the study also highlighted certain obstacles that hindered workers from accessing digital cash services, such as a lack of smartphones and difficulties in withdrawing wages due to factors like the distance between cash points and worker residences.
According to the survey, 60 per cent of workers need transportation to access cash services, resulting in additional costs. The survey also revealed that approximately 36 per cent of workers have outstanding loans from institutions like banks and women’s lending funds.
The committee recommended enhancing digital wage payment services, allowing workers in satellite units to access these services in coordination with banks without incurring additional costs. Furthermore, it suggested improving workers’ capabilities in managing these services and implementing financial education programs.
Finally, Better Work Jordan provided an update on preparations for the 15th Multi-Stakeholders’ Forum scheduled for early November 2023. The annual forum will centre on bolstering collaborative efforts to steer the garment industry towards sustainability, growth, and prosperity by promoting opportunities, cooperative strategies, and measures to enhance competitiveness and employment capacity. It will underscore the significance of adopting a holistic approach and consolidating the efforts of stakeholders within the sector. More updates to come.