Bangladeshi workers demand better work conditions

AMMAN – Hundreds of Bangladeshi workers at El Hassan Industrial Estate have been on strike since Saturday, accusing their employer of violating their rights.

A delegation comprising nine workers, who are employed by the International Business Garment Manufacturing Company (IBG), on Monday sought the assistance of the Tamkeen Centre for Legal Assistance after their talks with the relevant authorities reached a dead end, according to the workers.

They told The Jordan Times yesterday that they are “overworked” by their employer who keeps asking them to meet a daily target that is “beyond their capability”.

The delegation said the spark that stirred the workers’ protest was when an Indian supervisor “assaulted and humiliated a female worker simply because she wanted to use the restroom”.

“The supervisor grabbed her ear and hit her on her back and refused to let her go to the toilet,” one of the workers said yesterday. He asked to remain unnamed, fearing his employer’s retaliation.

The worker added that when his female colleague complained to the management, they did not believe her and asked her to go back to work, but she refused and filed a complaint with the police against the supervisor, who was subsequently summoned for interrogation and later referred to the judiciary.

“We wanted justice for our colleague, and when the management did not take any action, we decided to stage a work stoppage,” the workers said, adding that they also complained to the labour office at the industrial estate in Irbid, which did not take any action.

Tamkeen President Linda Kallash told The Jordan Times yesterday that the workers approached the centre yesterday and asked for their assistance to pressure their employer and relevant authorities to improve their workplace environment.

“We have tried to contact labour ministry officials to inform them about the workers’ problems but they were not available. We also tried to contact them via the ministry’s hotline, but no one answered,” Kallash told The Jordan Times, adding that usually an automated attendant responds to the calls in Arabic and English.

She noted that generally speaking, guest workers do not speak either language, so the hotline is useless to them as the attendant only responds in these two languages before connecting the caller to a translator.

Fathallah Emrani, president of the General Trade Union of Workers in Textile, Garment and Clothing Industries, told The Jordan Times yesterday that their office in Irbid has contacted the IBG management and urged them to take all measures to enhance the labourers’ working conditions.

The workers complained that their employer is cutting off water and electricity supplies from their hostel, but Emrani said the employer informed the union’s representative that the workers have 23 refrigerators in the hostel, which hiked the electricity bill to nearly JD600 per month.

“The factory owner offered to rent a warehouse where the workers can use their refrigerators, provided that they pay for the rent and the electricity bill,” Emrani said, adding that the workers refused this offer.

He noted that negotiations are still under way with the management in order to reach a compromise that satisfies all parties.
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