Inside Better Work’s tenth annual multi-stakeholders’ forum

18 Sep 2018

Stakeholders in the garment industry meet to share the latest developments on labour issues in Jordan.

Amman – A new system of electronic payments for workers, support for mental health issues and job creation for Syrian refugees were among subjects discussed at a recent high level meeting on Jordan’s garment industry.  The 10th annual Better Work Jordan’s multi-stakeholders’ forum, held August 1-2, brought together key players from the industry, along with representatives from the EU, and the US government to examine recent developments in the sector and canvas options for future policy priorities.

Addressing the meeting, Jordan’s Minister of Labour, Sameer Murad, outlined the government’s strategy to promote employment opportunities in the country. “Only through empowering our human resources, can we strengthen our middle class, grow our economy and combat unemployment,” he said.​

Representatives of the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) presented their e-payment model, launched to help workers better receive and control their salaries. The system promises to revolutionize the salary dissemination process and eliminate associated expenses. “Working with payment service providers will provide migrants with access to financial services and the formal financial system through digital wallets.,” the Central Bank’s Amr Almusa told the meeting.

This year’s forum also brought special attention to workers’ well-being, addressing the need to introduce viable mental-health awareness and support to the industry. Acknowledging an existing gap between diagnosing and extending mental health services to workers, Zainab Yang, Team Leader at Better Work Jordan shared an action plan to map potential partners with knowledge on the issues. “Partnership with national and international NGOs who have expertise in mental health and psychological support will be crucial to increase awareness and cognition of this topic in the sector.”

On the issue of Syrian refugees, the International Labour Organization (ILO) outlined to the meeting its comprehensive approach and targeted intervention to promote their employment through a presentation delivered by Maha Kattaa, ILO Coordinator for Response to the Syrian Refugee crisis.

The ILO is also advocating taking Syrians out of the quota system. The current quota in the garment sector allows for 70 percent migrant workers to 30 percent Jordanians, which limits Syrian refugees’ opportunities.

Delegates also heard the personal story of Natasha Dahy, a migrant who described her journey from a worker on the factory floor to becoming a coordinator at the ILO’s multi-purpose workers’ centre in Irbid, “Before going to the workers’ centre I was homesick. In the centre, I found a community. All workers have found a place to laugh and have fun.”  The centre provides recreational facilities, access to counselling and legal advice and supplementary job services, aiming to boost morale and build workers’ skills.

Discussions on gender equality in the workplace and finding ways to promote women to leadership, in line with Better Work Jordan’s strategy and as part of the ILO’s “Women at Work” Centenary Initiative, took centre stage at the forum.  Sharing her own story, 28 year old working mother Taghreed Hamadeen expressed gratitude towards her employers for supporting her efforts to further her career. Hamadeen currently works as an operations executive in a garment factory; an accomplishment that she hopes will inspire other women. “I had support from my work and from my husband. There are many success stories in the garment industry; the harder you work the more (success) you will find.”

The influence of international trade agreements in promoting inclusive growth and ensuring decent working conditions workers, in line with United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8, was underlined by Jim Barnhart, the US’s Acting Deputy Chief of Mission in Jordan, referring to the key role of the United States (US)-Jordanian Free Trade Agreement.

The meeting heard that the EU’s partnership with Better Work Jordan will build on lessons from the impact of the EU-Jordan agreement on the relaxed rules of origin for the garment sector to build an approach for the broader industrial sector.  The initiative is part of the EU’s overall strategy, as the Olfa Alouini, EU Head of Trade and Economic section, explained  “Through (the EU’s) development assistance, we work with the government and the private sector to encourage the creation of decent jobs for all people living in Jordan.”

Also looking to the future, president of the Textile, Garment and Clothes Union, Fathalla Al-Omarani, stressed the importance of developing strategic partnerships, calling  on key stakeholders in the industry to “Formulate effective partnerships that further ensure that all standards of compliance are met,” and stating that “better working conditions increase profit at garment factories.”

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