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Emerging Textiles: US Government Asked to Investigate Allegations: Jordan Rocked by Abuse Claims

May 5, 2006  |  Share


US Government Asked to Investigate Allegations: Jordan Rocked by Abuse Claims

May 5, 2006



Politicians in the US have urged the government to investigate claims made by a US-based human rights organisation that systematic abuse of workers exists in Jordan. The two countries have a free trade agreement which insists that labour rights in Jordan are enforced subject to possible sanctions should it fail to do so.

Democrat politicians in the United States have set a precedent by demanding the Bush administration investigates claims of abuse in Jordan.

The four politicians, members of the influential Ways and Means Committee, have asked the US government to look into the labour provisions of the free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.

It follows a report made by the human rights group, National Labor Committee, which says it has evidence of substandard conditions in more than 25 of Jordan's 100 or so clothing factories.

The group also interviewed both current and former workers and found that many had been physically and sexually abused.

The workers who are mainly Bangladeshi women, also had their passports confiscated upon arriving in Jordan and forced to work shifts of up to 109 hours a week.

Jordan has profited from US duty free trade.

This could be potentially damaging to the Jordanian economy which has been on the increase since signing the FTA with Washington and further boosted by the introduction of Qualified Industrial Zones(QIZ).

The QIZ have been successful in attracting new clothing manufacturers to set up their factories there and benefit from US duty-free access.

The volume of apparel and textile shipments arriving into the US from Jordan increased 36 per cent in February this year compared with the same month in 2005.

Some of the main importers of Jordanian clothing include such companies as Wal-Mart, Gloria Vanderbilt, Target and Kohl's.

Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the US, confirmed that it had discovered serious problems with working conditions in some major Jordanian factories.

Failure to protect workers could lead to sanctions.

But the National Labor Committee has spoke strongly of the apparent failure of US companies to do more in protecting workers.

An investigator sent to Jordan following a request by Bangladeshi workers, saw that US companies were sometimes inactive in tackling workplace abuse because workers were either told to lie or were scared to speak out.

In response, several Jordanian factory owners have denied the allegations and insist that they treat their workers well.

But the success of the US-Jordan FTA could be in jeopardy should the US government confirm that poor labour practices exist.

This could result in sanctions being imposed on Jordan for non-compliance of the FTA requirement that it enforces its labour laws consistent to international workers' rights.

Send your feedback to Peter Harrison.





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