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Migrant worker leaders elected in Jordan garment factories

4 April, 2019A union election was held in the garment factories of Al-Dulayl Industrial Zone in Amman, Jordan, to develop democratic representation for migrant workers.

The election on 22 March is the culmination of a project by the General Trade Union of Workers in Textile Garment & Clothing Industries in Jordan (JTGCU), supported by IndustriALL Global Union, to develop representative structures for migrant workers. The project was launched in November 2017, and is significant because migrant workers are not represented at the national level, with representation limited to union committees in factories.

The garment sector in Jordan employs about 69,000 workers, of which 75 per cent are women. About 16,000 are from Jordan, while 53,000 migrant workers from Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, China, Cambodia, Madagascar, Pakistan, Myanmar and Syria make up the rest.

The factories produce for international, particularly US, brands. Uniting migrant workers in unions and establishing representation at national levels is key to addressing issues around wages, social security, health and safety, and housing.

The sector is mainly based in three regions, Irbid, Al-Dulayl and Sahab. The project was launched at Al-Dulayl to raise awareness of unions, and introduce workers to the sectoral collective agreement signed by JTGCU after a tremendous effort. The agreement uniquely covers migrant workers.  Sectoral agreements are still rare in the industry.

A series of workshops was held in 2018 in which 168 union committee members participated. The training focused on Jordanian labour law, the collective agreement, the role of factory committees, the importance of active involvement in unions to ensure workplace protection, and IndustriALL and the global movement.

After completing the training at Al-Dulayl, democratic elections were held, with representatives from the JTGCU and the ILO present. IndustriALL was represented by Ahmed Kamel and Christina Hajagos-Claussen. 26 workers, predominantly women, were elected, proportional to the number of workers from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Fathallah Emrani, president of the JTGCU, said:

“Since the beginning of the influx of migrant workers to Jordan to work in the garment sector, the union has raised awareness of their rights and that they are not alone, that we support them, represent them and defend them.

“We needed to form trade union committees in the factories to represent the workers of all different nationalities, so that their voice reaches the ears of decision makers. We will also give them a role in the decision-making process of the union.

“After the success of the election of at Al-Dulayl, we look forward to completing the process in Irbid and Sahab.”

Ahmed Kamel said,

“The high engagement and enthusiasm of migrant workers was visible during the election process and the training. These are key factors to achieve sustainability and strengthen migrant workers’ voices.”

Christina Hajagos-Claussen said,

 “In addition to the industry wide agreement, union representation of migrant workers at factory level is another step towards improving working and living conditions. The results clearly reflect the dominance of women workers in the industry, as they also dominated the seats.”