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Jordan: Factory behind Israel clothes labels is no sweatshop

Haaertz  |  December 8, 2009  |  Share  |  Source article

Jordan's Ministry of Labor on Wednesday rejected accusations that a local factory supplying clothing to Israel was abusing its workers, saying there was no evidence of either human trafficking or forced work.

On Sunday The National Labor Committee, a U.S.-based workers' rights organization, released a report accusing the Musa Garments factory in Jordan of employing workers under inhuman conditions, and charges the company with "human trafficking, abuse, forced overtime, primitive dorm conditions,

imprisonment and forcible deportations of foreign guest workers."

The report exposed what is claimed to be one of the biggest secrets of the Israeli fashion industry, saying the cheap production costs for Israeli labels, such as Irit, Bonita, Jump and Pashut, took a heavy toll on workers' rights at Musa Garments.

The publication of the NLS report by Haaretz triggered a wave of demonstrations and responses in Israel, as labor protection organizations in Israel organized a demonstration in Tel Aviv that was to be held opposite the Azrieli Center, where the stores reportedly marketing clothing from Musa Garments have branches.

Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich had responded to the allegations by saying that they represent a "frightening phenomenon of exploitation that, of course, didn't begin today."

However, a report compiled by Jordan's Ministry of Labor, found that there was "no basis for the most serious allegations made by the NLC against the working conditions at the Musa Garments factory and the enforcement of the laws of Jordan."

The ministry stated that there was no evidence of human trafficking or withholding of passports, and no evidence of forced overtime or forced work on Fridays or holidays. The report also responded to other complaints raised by the NLS, such as subhuman living conditions such as 4-8 people in a tiny dormitory room, no showers and water for only an hour or two a night. There is no heat in the rooms in the winter, and the bathrooms are filthy. The roofs leak.

In its response, the Jordanian Ministry of Labor admitted that while the dormitory conditions met acceptable standards, "sanitation needs some improvement."

"A new dormitory is being made available to the workers in September, which will also represent an overall improvement," the statement added. Also, in response to claims of conflicts between supervisors and workers, the ministry claimed that it indeed seemed that two supervisors have "bad relations with the workers, and findings and recommendations to Musa management have been made in this regard."

Furthermore, the Ministry of Labor added that "investigations involving the workers subject to the deportation order are on-going, and more information will be released in that regard as it becomes available."

 

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