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JORDAN: Bangladeshi workers protest against abuse

AMMAN, 2 October 2006 (IRIN) - More than 200 Bangladeshi migrant workers in a textile factory staged a sit-in on Sunday to protest against physical and verbal abuse by their employer.

"We tried to end the issue peacefully but the management refused to listen to our demands," said Fathallah Emrani, president of the General Federation of Textile Industries.

The workers, who were demonstrating outside the office of the governor of Zarqa, 30 km east of the capital, Amman, vowed to continue their strike until their rights were respected and demands met. These include the release of six colleagues from police custody who were detained on Saturday on orders from the Zarqa governor.

The six men were accused of instigating a strike that began last week, said Emrani.

The Bangladeshis work at the Rainbow Textile Factory in Duleil Qualified Industrial Zone (QIZ), which houses several factories, including Rainbow, that manufacture major American brands such as Levi Strauss, Gap and Calvin Klein.

The workers signed a document detailing the abuse inflicted on them by their employer, including "severe beating, verbal insults, threats of deportation and forcing them to sign blank documents”.

One of the workers, who would only identify himself by his first name, Hilal, said five people, including two women, had been beaten over the past two days.

"They want us to work like slaves," he said.

Employees first went on strike on 27 September, protesting against delayed payments, prolonged working hours of up to 15 hours a day without overtime and confiscation of their passports.

According to Jordan’s labour laws, workers should not work more than eight hours a day and passports should not be confiscated, said Emrani.

"We persuaded the workers to end the strike after the management promised to meet their demands. But the next day, the management deported four women to Bangladesh with government approval without paying them their financial dues," said Emrani.

He said the factory management refused to meet representatives of the labour union and threatened to deport workers and beat them if they did not return to work.

Last week, in another incident, 1,000 Bangladeshi workers at Duleil QIZ also staged a one-day strike demanding improved working conditions.

Officials from the labour ministry said on Sunday they were investigating the workers’ allegations.

"We will not be lenient with anyone who dares to abuse foreign or local workers," said a senior official from the labour ministry, who preferred not to be named.

Officials from the Rainbow Textile Factory were not available for comment.

Factories in this industrial zone are often accused of maltreating their employees, according to labour rights organisations, such as the local General Federation for Textile Industries and the Washington-based National Labour Committee for Worker and Human Rights.

Last month, the Washington-based labour federation AFL-CIO and the Boston-based National Textile Association lodged a lawsuit against Jordan under the US-Jordan Free Trade Agreement (FTA), saying the kingdom had failed to enact and enforce labour laws that met international standards for the protection of workers’ rights.

A report earlier this year by the New York-based National Labour Committee for Worker and Human Rights stated that tens of thousands of foreign workers in Jordan's textile sector were being cheated of full wages while being forced to work extra hours.

Jordan has said it implemented fines and warnings to crack down on abuse. Some factories were also closed.

MBH/AR/ED/MW

Theme (s): Human Rights,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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