Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Productive foreign workers

An article in the New York Times today exposes large scale abuse of foreign workers working in the apparel industry in Jordan. I mentioned yesterday that the government gave these same industries deferrals on implementing the new minimum wage rate, ostensibly because Jordanian workers are "less productive" than their foreign counterparts.

The article cites cases of excessively long working hours (20 hours per day), non payment of salaries and the holding of travel documents to prevent these workers from leaving.

Applying Jordanian labor laws stringently towards both Jordanian and guest workers is both a moral and an economic duty. It is unacceptable that these abuses continue under the pretence of encouraging investment.



At 6:46 PM, Blogger Rami said...

how long has this been going on for though? I met an Iraqi in 1999 whose wife was a dentist getting paid 45JD a month in one of those factories. I assume it was going on for a while by then.

how can the government and those sweat-shop owners have gone on for so long without anyone exposing them? those little islands of oppression (even in relative terms) are so well guarded - the owners exert suffocating control over the flow of information, the workers are foreign and are not part of the social network, the government(s) are most probably colluders in my opinion.

how come we allowed this in our country? because they are Bengali or Sri-Lankan it becomes OK to allow someone to oppress them while we protest the oppressor?

At 6:47 PM, Blogger Rami said...

"...we protest the oppressor? "

we certainly did not protest the oppressor, "protect" is what I wanted to say.

At 8:11 PM, Blogger Hatem Abunimeh said...

Every story has two sides and then the [truth] sits somewhere in the middle.
The report appears to be selective and doesn't present an objective view from both sides of the issue.
I think that the writer utilizes sensationalism to instigate his readers with the title " Sweat Shops in Jordan" What exactly does sweat shop means? The sweat shops that I'm familiar with in other parts of the world are allegedly employing minors and under age children, they also exploit women and young girls.
I didn't see any of these allegations about the Jordanian garment factories existing in the report.
It is possible that there are violations and these violations are festering, but I'm not sure that they rise to the level of "Sweat Shops"
I think that better monitoring mechanisms need to be put in place and I think that any hours over 40 per week needs to be paid at a premium wages, but that isn't for me to decide, but I hate to think that our business men and women have sunk to the level of dehumanizing and vilifying people of other countries.

At 8:28 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hi Rami: I think that the issue is greed and not racial. Many Jordanians complain about treatment at these factories as well.

Hatem: I agree that there might be an element of sensationalism. However, making people work 90 hour weeks without overtime constitutes sweatshop conditions to me. Maybe the situation is exagerated, but even if it is partially true then something needs to be done about it.

At 8:58 PM, Blogger Rami said...

Hatem: have a look at this:

"connotes overcrowding, very low wages or piece work rates, child labor, long hours, and a low standard of workplace safety. It is also used to suggest that a workplace is physically or mentally abusive, or that it prevents workers from unionizing or advocating for their rights in other ways."

OR is the keyword. Any of those conditions existing constitutes a sweat shop.

How can you dismiss this article as "selective" and "utilizes sensationalism"? Have you ever met any of the workers there? Or visited the places to check?

At 9:59 PM, Blogger moi said...

Khalaf, I just blogged about this too and I hope you don't mind I quoted you. This is so disturbing, but I hope that Jordanian labor laws will be strictly enforced to protect all workers in our country. If there are improvements, then the media and organizations such as the NLC have done a commendable job of exposing the wrongs in our society.

At 12:19 AM, Blogger Natasha said...

I just quoted you as well on Mental Mayhem. What can we do without your highly informative blog;)

At 5:16 AM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Moi and Natasha: (blush)thank you.

At 6:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Khalaf,
Thank you for posting about this on your blog. We truly appreciate it. The more people are informed about these kinds of abuses and the more they care, the more pressure is applied on governments and companies around the world. Your blog is very interesting and highly informed. Keep it up!

In Solidarity,
Christine Clarke
National Labor Committee

At 7:53 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hello Christine. Thank you for your kind words.


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