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September 28, 2006  |  Share

Atateks Report, Jordan

September 28, 2006

Atateks Garment Factory In Jordan

Producing for Target, J.C.Penney, Nautica and Russell

Table of Contents:

 

  • Human trafficking and involuntary servitude continue—foreign guest workers stripped of passports and denied their most basic legal rights.
  • Paid below the legal minimum wage and routinely cheated of overtime pay while being forced to work 94 1/2 hours a week.
  • For asking for their legal rights under Jordanian law—and guaranteed under the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement—ten workers were fired, imprisoned, beaten and forcibly deported back to Bangladesh in August 2006.
  • The workers sought help—to no avail—from the Ministry of Labor, the Jordanian police, the Bangladesh Embassy and Atateks management.
  • Conditions in the Atateks factory remain abusive and tense—with the workers fearing further deportations.

ALERT

Jordanian government claims workers were deported because they posed security threat

On September 26, the Jordanian government declared that 10 Atateks workers had been fired and forcibly deported after failing a security clearance review by Jordanian Intelligence, and that due to the sensitive nature of such reviews, no further information would be released.

The NLC finds these allegations very disturbing and difficult to believe.  For one thing, several of the deported workers entered Jordan in December 2004, and worked under very abusive conditions at the Atateks factory for the next 20 months.  Upon entering Jordan, Atateks management stripped the Bangladeshi guest workers of their passports and denied them their necessary residency permits.  The workers were routinely forced to work 14 to 16, and even 18-hour shifts, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., midnight or 3:00 a.m.  They worked seven days a week and received just one day off every one or two months.  The workers were paid below the legal minimum wage and cheated of their overtime pay.

Apparently these workers posed no security threat for over a year and a half while they were victims of human trafficking and held under conditions of involuntary servitude.

It was only after the workers learned their legal rights and set out in May 2006 to nonviolently win respect for their most basic labor rights under Jordanian law that these workers apparently failed to gain security clearance.

9/27/2006--We just spoke with the deported Atateks workers in Jordan who say the Jordanian government's claims are "untrue and fabricated." The workers say they were "never involved in anything related to any security issues."

The NLC sees this as a serious violation of the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement and we urge the U.S. government to initiate an immediate review of this case.

If these forcible deportations are not reversed, it will give a green light to factories all across Jordan—which exported $1.1 billion-worth of garments to the U.S. last year duty free—that they too are free to fire and forcibly deport any workers asking that their legal rights be respected.

We encourage the American people to review the chronology following this report and to read in the workers’ own words, the account of their struggle for their legal rights.  This is the best way to decide if the workers are correct, or whether the factory management and Jordanian government are justified in these firings and forcible deportations.

 

Atateks Foreign Trade Ltd.
Al Tajamouat Industrial City
Sahab, Jordan

Phone:  962-6-402-5150
            962-6-402-5151

Capital: Turkish.  Owned by businessman Mr. Elhan

There are 300 to 400 workers in the factory: 182 Bangladeshi guest workers, 120 Jordanian workers and 100 temporary workers who are also Jordanian and Palestinian. 

Currently, as of mid-September 2006, the Atateks factory is producing garments for duty-free export to the U.S. for Target (Prospirit Athletic Gear, RN #17730), J.C. Penney (Worthington, RN #93677), Nautica (RN #67835—which is VF Sportswear) and Russell Athletics (Dri-Power).

Though not an especially large factory by Jordanian standards, Atateks receives contracts from major U.S. companies.  In fact, according to the workers, Atateks frequently subcontracts work to other factories including Jordan Silk (from which three workers were forcibly deported on September 6, 2006), United Garments (14 1/2 to 15 1/2-hour daily shifts and workers shortchanged of up to half of their overtime pay), Southern Apparels (where workers are getting the legal minimum wage, but are forced to work to 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. each night), and Paramount Garment factory (where workers are cheated on overtime pay and housed under substandard conditions).

Ten Atateks workers fired, imprisoned, beaten and forcibly deported on August 6, 2006, for asking for their most basic legal rights.

1)      Mr. Masud Rana (Passport No. W0252831)
2)      Mr. Abul Hasan (Passport No. W0418581)
3)      Mr. Shahidul Islam (Passport No. W0406530
4)      Mr. Kabir (Passport No. N0322310)
5)      Mr. Jasimuddin (Passport No. W0093155)
6)      Mr. Abdul Hai (Passport No. W0678348)
7)      Mr. Taibur Rahman Tipu (Passport No. B0738696)
8)      Mr. Sharifu
9)      Mr. Siraz
10)    Mr. Alim

The “crime” these workers committed was asking Atateks management to respect their most basic legal rights as afforded under Jordanian law. Specifically, they and their co-workers asked management to respect:

  • The regular eight-hour workday,
  • Payment of the legal minimum wage,
  • To record and pay all overtime hours correctly,
  • That they be paid in the first week of the following month, and
  • That the quality of the routinely substandard food be improved.

 

Human Trafficking Continues:

It appears that the majority, if not all, of the foreign guest workers have still not received their passports back. Nor have all the workers received their necessary residency permits, without which it is dangerous for them to even venture outside their factory or dorm without fear of being stopped and detained by the police.

  • One Atateks worker—Mr. Masum (ID card #80020) has been imprisoned since August 8 for the “crime” of asking management for his akama, or residency permit.
  • Two workers—Mr. Mamum (ID card #80053) and Mr. Rifat (ID card #80078)—were fired and forcibly deported on March 19, 2006, and returned to Bangladesh. Their “crime” was protesting the substandard food being provided to the workers. For example, it was not uncommon for the workers to be provided rotten eggs to eat.

All these workers want justice and want to be returned to Jordan with payment of back wages and guarantees that there will be no further reprisals.


Gross wage and hour violations persist at the Atateks factory: 


Workers cheated of 1/3 of their wages while being forced to work 94 ½ hours a week, and forced overtime continues:

  • Standard 14-hour daily shift from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
  • Forced to work seven days a week
  • At the factory a minimum of 94.5 hours a week
  • 16 and even 24-hour all-night shifts not uncommon

On Thursday, September 7, 2006, the Atateks workers were forced to work a 24-hour shift, straight through from 8:00 a.m. Thursday morning to 8:00 a.m. the following Friday morning. What made this even worse is that September 7 was an important religious holiday, when Muslims believe God will decide their fate for the coming year, making it critical that workers have time to pray.

Though the standard shift is 14 hours a day, it is also quite common each week for the workers to be kept working from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight, a 16-hour shift, and before shipments must leave for the U.S., 19-hour shifts are required. After working straight through from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. the following morning, the workers are allowed just a few hours’ break before having to report again for their next shift at 8:00 a.m. that same morning.

Typical workweek
14 to 16 hours a day
7 days a week

8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.                       (Work, 4 1/2 hours)
12:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.                       (Lunch, 1/2 hour)
1:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.                         (Work, 5 1/2 hours)
6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.                         (Supper, 1/2 hour)
7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. or 12:00 a.m.   (Work, 3 to 5 hours)

Even on Fridays, the legal weekly holiday, the Atateks workers must stay until 8:00, 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. Only on some rare occasions are they let out “early” at 6:30 p.m.

At a minimum then, these workers are at the Atateks factory 94 1/2 hours a week, putting in six 14-hour shifts and a 10 1/2-hour shift on Friday. With the two half-hour breaks each day for lunch and supper, this means that the workers are actually toiling 87 1/2 hours a week. However, it would not be uncommon for the workers to be kept at the factory 102 hours a week.

All overtime work is forced, and is never voluntary. Each week, the Atateks workers are required to work, at a minimum, 39 1/2 hours of overtime, which exceeds Jordan’s legal limit on permissible overtime hours by 282 percent.

Substandard Wages:
  • Workers cheated of 1/3 of the wages legally due them.
  • Earning just $42.40 for an 87 1/2-hour workweek, while by law they should be earning at least $64.45.
  • Workers are being shortchanged of $22.05 each week in wages legally due them, meaning they are losing $1,146 in wages each year.
  • In the past, it was even worse, and the workers had to fight to gain what they now earn.

Just a few months ago, conditions at the Atateks factory were even much worse that they are now. It was typical for the workers to be kept at the factory 102 hours, while working 95 hours a week. The workers were paid 1/3 below the legal minimum wage, earning just 43 1/2 cents an hour, rather than the legal 64 1/2-cent an hour minimum wage. They were being shortchanged of 21 cents an hour.   Including overtime hours it was even worse, with the workers earning less than half of what was legally owed them.  For the typical 95 hour workweek, including 47 hours of overtime, the workers should have earned $70.98--$30.99 for the regular 48 hours of work, $12.58 for the 13 hours of overtime on Friday, which must be paid at a 50 percent premium, and $27.41 for the 34 overtime hours paid at the standard 25 percent premium.  Instead of being paid the $70.98 legally due them, the Atateks workers were paid just $32.62—less than half of what was due them.  This means that in the course of a year, these desperately poor workers were being cheated of nearly $2,000 in wages legally owed them.

Since the workers’ strike beginning in May and other worker actions, payment of wages has improved slightly—but it still falls 34 percent short of the legal standard.

As we have seen, as of August 2006, the workers were working 87 1/2 hours a week, including 39 1/2 hours of overtime.  For the regular 48 hours of work, the workers should be earning $30.99, or 64 1/2 cents an hour.  For the 10 hours of overtime required on Friday—the weekly holiday—which must be paid at a 50 percent premium, the workers should earn $9.68.  For the remaining 29 1/2 hours of normal overtime, to be paid at a 25 percent premium, the workers should earn $23.78, bringing the total weekly wages to $64.45.

However, Atateks management continues to pay, at most, just 130 Jordanian Dinar per month, including all overtime.  (One Dinar is worth $1.41343 U.S.)  This means that the Atateks factory pays at a maximum, just $183.75 per month, and just $42.40 for a 87 1/2-hour workweek.  This is 34 percent ($22.05) below what the workers are legally owed according to Jordanian law.  This means that in the course of a year, the workers will be cheated of $1,146 in wages legally due them.


Legal Minimum Wage in Jordan
(95 JD / $134.28 a month) 

  •  
    • 64 1/2 cents per hour
    • $30.99 per week (48 hours)
    • $134.28 a month
    • $1,611.31 a year
--Standard overtime is to be paid at a 25% premium, or 81 cents an hour.

--Overtime on the weekly Friday holiday must be paid at a 50% premium, or 97 cents per hour.

 

Labels Produced in Atateks (as of September 2006)

 

 

Chronology of Events

A case of courage: Atateks workers led a peaceful struggle—after a year and a half of abuse—to win their most basic legal rights, only to be met with deception, lies, threats, firings and forcible deportations. Sadly, the workers received no help from the Ministry of Labor in Jordan, or from their own Bangladesh Embassy. Conditions at the Atateks factory remain abusive and illegal.

May 17 – 20:
Atateks foreign guest workers from Bangladesh first learned of their rights when a National Labor Committee/United Steelworkers Union delegation visited Jordan and hosted a private meeting with 100 workers from numerous factories in the Al Tajamouat Industrial City. At the meeting the U.S. delegation distributed flyers in Bengali that clearly explain the workers’ legal rights under Jordanian law. On numerous occasions prior to the trip, the U.S. delegation had been assured by Jordanian government officials that no reprisals would be taken against any worker who met with us, and certainly no one would be fired and deported. This turned out not to be the case.

May 18 (Thursday):
Atateks workers informed plant director, Mr. Osman, that they want their legal rights respected: including the regular eight-hour workday; payment of the legal minimum wage; and that all overtime hours be correctly noted and paid for. That day the workers refused to work past 4:30 p.m., when the regular eight-hour shift ended.

May 20 (Saturday):
On Friday—the weekly holiday in Jordan—the factory was closed. (Due to the presence of the U.S. delegation, garment factories all across Jordan were shut down on that day.) When the workers arrived at the factory on Saturday, they found the factory locked. Another Atateks manager, a Ms. Salma, directed the workers to assemble in the plant cafeteria for a meeting, where she proceeded to order the workers that they must work a general duty shift of 10 hours—and not the (legal) eight-hour shift they were demanding. Gang members were present to threaten the workers.

Following the meeting, all 175 Bangladeshi workers marched to the local police station in Sahab to seek help, but they were not allowed to enter. From there the workers marched to the Bangladeshi Embassy which was also closed. Next, they walked to the local Ministry of Labor court, which too was closed. These workers peacefully sat down in the road. Police surrounded them. Later that afternoon the workers returned to their dorm.

May 21 (Sunday):
That morning, all 175 Bangladeshi workers again marched to the Bangladesh Embassy to seek help to win their legal rights. The Bangladesh ambassador or official, a Mr. Masud Alim Jasas, agreed to meet with a delegation of six workers. The official told the workers that they were wrong and that it was their responsibility to work 10 regular hours a day, and not eight. The workers were very disappointed. A police van followed the workers as they returned to their dorm.

An hour or so later, another Bangladesh Embassy official, a Mr. Amin, came to the workers’ dorm, urging them to return to work, and asking that they give him one week to settle their issues.

At 3:30 p.m. that afternoon the workers went back to work until 6:30 p.m.

May 22 (Monday):
Early in the morning, Atateks’ owner agreed to meet with five worker representatives who again explained their demands, including respect for the legal regular eight-hour work day; payment of the legal minimum wage of 95 JD, or $134.28, a month; correct payment for all overtime work; that they be paid no later than the 6th day of the following month; and that the factory food be improved.

The owner agreed to their demands, and asked for 15 days to finalize the details.

The workers went back to work at 8:00 a.m., but the owner insisted that they continue to work a regular shift of 10 hours. After some discussion, the workers decided not to fight this, since both the owner and a Bangladesh Embassy official promised to help them within the next week or two.

June 3 (Saturday):
At 10:00 a.m., factory manager Mr. Osman informed the workers that the owner had agreed to all their demands, the eight-hour day, the legal minimum wage, etc. and that there would be no reprisals or deportations.

June 8 (Thursday):
The workers received their months’ pay for May, and they were paid the legal minimum wage of 95 JD, or $134.28, for the month. However, management deducted $56.54 for room and board. The workers strongly protested that this was no wage increase at all. Rather, their wages were now actually lower than they were in the past. Mr. Osman informed the workers that they would soon be receiving their residency permits and that the company would return the workers’ passports. (Prior to the publication of the NLC’s report, “U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement Descends into Human Trafficking and Involuntary Servitude”, factory management stripped the guest workers of their passports upon their arrival in Jordan.)

July 6 (Thursday):
The workers finally received their legal minimum wage.

August 3 (Thursday):
Ten of the workers who had led the efforts to win their rights were told they would have to travel to Amman to pick up their residency permits, that after lunch, at 1:00 p.m., a van would be ready to take them to their appointment.

Instead the van took the 10 leaders to the Sahab police station.  The workers used their cell phones to call their colleagues in the factory to inform them that they were being deported.

All the Bangladeshi workers immediately stopped working and marched to the police station, demanding their colleagues be released.  The police locked the gate and would not allow any of the workers to enter the jail.

Atateks managers were already present at the police station.  One manager came out and told the group of workers that the 10 workers were being fired and deported, and that if the workers kept up their demonstration, they too would be fired and deported.  All the workers responded “Go ahead.  Deport us all, as these 10 workers are without fault.” 

The police then shot in the air.  Frightened, the workers returned to their dorm.

The police beat the 10 detained workers for having hidden the cell phone they used to call the factory.  The workers were stripped naked.

August 4 (Friday):
Atateks managers again told the workers that the 10 leaders were being deported for having led disturbances and that with their absence, conditions should return to normal.  They encouraged the workers to learn a lesson from this.  Namely, if they continued to cause problems, other workers would also be deported.

August 6 (Sunday):
The 10 imprisoned workers were taken to the airport and at 4:30 p.m. put on a plane to Bangladesh, where they arrived the following morning, August 7.  The workers were not allowed to collect their personal belongings before being forcibly deported.

September 10 (Sunday):
As of September 10, conditions at the Atateks factory remain abusive and in violation of Jordanian law.  Routine daily shifts of 14 to 16 hours are mandatory, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. or midnight.  There are also forced 18 to 24-hour all-night shifts.  The workers continue to work seven days a week.

However, the workers did win respect for the regular eight-hour day and payment of the legal minimum wage, though the workers report still being somewhat shortchanged of their full overtime pay.

 

Interview With Workers Deported From the Atateks Factory

Dhaka, Bangladesh

September, 10, 2006

(transcript excerpts)

An account of abusive conditions and how the workers struggled for their legal rights—only to be deported.

 

Workers Demand that the Company Respect the Legal Eight-Hour Work Day:

Worker #1:  In the meantime, we have already passed 1½ years.... So when the buyers came before March, the managers said that if the factory is to run, the workers have to say what management wants.  If they give good report to the buyers, it will continue, it will run.  The workers said, 'No.'  For 1½ years we have been telling lies.  Now we will not tell lies.  So what they wanted was 8 hours, and at that time the workers said they would not work past 4:30.  At that time, they would punch their cards, at 4:30, to give them back, after working 8 hours.  It was sometime in May.  Osman was the director.  So we talked to Osman the director, and we very clearly said we wouldn’t work past 8 hours, since we had a contract of 8 hours.  We would work for only 8 hours until 4:30. 

CK:  When was this happening?

Worker #1:  May.  May.

CK:  May of 2005....May of 2006, they met with the general manager of the factory.

Worker #1:  Mr. Osman.

CK:   And what did they say?

Worker #1:  And then Mr. Osman the director took three days to think about this.  And the director told the workers he would talk to the owner to consider these issues.  And Osman also told the workers he is not aware about the labor laws in Jordan.

Then, we did not work 3 days—only eight hours we worked.  [Explanation.   Translator refers to calendar.]

Translator:  So they worked the 18th of May until 4:30.  And Friday was off.  When they entered the factory on Saturday, May 20, they found the factory was locked, under lock and key. 


Workers Threatened by Gang Members and Deportation:

Worker #1:  Mr. Osman was not there, but another director, Mrs. Salma was there.  Mrs. Salma asked the workers to the canteen room, so that many workers can sit and have a meeting.  Salma asked the workers, who is willing to work eight hours...divided in two parts:  Who is willing to work eight hours and who is willing to work ten hours...to go into two teams or two groups.  When Salma called the meeting, she brought in some outsiders...terrorists...gang members...Then immediately Mrs. Salma told the workers, you have to work 10 hours, or we will send back all the workers to Bangladesh.  It was on May 20th.


Workers Learned Their Legal Rights When an NLC/USW Delegation Visited Jordan on May 17, 2006:

Worker #1:  We found a leaflet.  [Takes NLC flyer summarizing Jordanian labor law out of his pocket.]

CK:   So this leaflet...in other words they took their action after they got this leaflet?

Worker #1:  Yes.  After going through this leaflet we were aware of our rights.

CK:  And you were at the meeting with us.  I recognize them.  [Workers nod.]  ...So on that May 18 you only worked until 4:30, and you had Friday off.  Was it rare to have Friday off?

Worker #1:  The director took 3 days to consider the workers demand and the director told us to have a day off on the 19th, on Friday.

CK:  And then, when they went to the factory on Saturday it was closed, on the 20th.

Worker #1:  On Friday [CK: Saturday] the workers were called by the management, and they wanted to have the workers say who wants to work...

CK:  Was that Ms. Salam?  A woman?

Worker #1:  Yes.  A woman.

CK: What’s her name?  Is it on the card?

Worker #1:  Salma.  Mrs. Salma.

Translator:  S.A.L.M.A.

CK:  So she is a director

Translator:  One of the directors.

CK:  And so she told the workers that they were going to have to work 10 hours of general duty.

Translator:  She said, who are the workers who want to work eight hours, and who are the workers who want to work ten hours?  And all the workers together say, we want to work eight hours.


Workers Seek Help from Labor Ministry, Jordanian Police and the Bangladeshi Embassy—to no avail:

Worker #1:  All the workers said they want to work eight hours.  Then Mrs Salma told them all the workers will be sent back to Bangladesh if they don’t agree to work ten hours.... And then all the workers got out of the factory and they went to the Sahab police station.  Mrs. Salma phoned the police station that all the workers are going to the police.  And the workers were not allowed to enter the police station main gate.  Then the workers, having no way to talk to the police, they want to the Bangladeshi Embassy.  But at the Embassy, it was Saturday, they failed to talk to the Embassy.  Then they went to the labor court.  But the Labor Courtis closed on Saturday.  When they saw the labor court was closed, all the workers sat on the road.  Then Mr. Osman, one of the directors, came to the workers, while they were sitting on the road.

CK:  Mr. Roseman?

Translator:  Osman.  O.S.M.A.N.—who took three days earlier...

Worker #1:  So when all the workers went to the police station, one worker was locked in the room.

CK:  So the workers were sitting on the road and Mr. Osman came to talk to them?

Worker #1:  Then Mr. Osman invited the workers to come back to the factory.  The workers told him, you took three days from us to consider our demands.  Then the workers said, you did not keep your word.  You were supposed to say something after three days.  You have to agree to our demands.  Otherwise we will not go to the factory.  And while the workers were travelling or going around and even when they were sitting, the police was around them.  And in the meantime, one worker was locked in the office, and the workers told Mr. Osman to let the worker out of the room, to set him free.

CK:  One worker was locked in the factory?  But where are they, they are in front of the Labor Court aren’t they?

Translator:  They are sitting on the road. 

Worker #1:  Close to the factory.  Then Mr. Osman gave a phone to the workers telling them, you talk to your embassy.  The workers talked to the Ambassador over the phone, but we didn’t know whether it is genuine, or a fake embassy.  And the Ambassador told the workers they have to work ten hours.  The workers said to the Ambassador, in our leaflet we have come to know that we have to work eight hours.  And Mr. Osman, who was with the workers, threatened that today we will send 200 workers back to Bangladesh.

CK:  But the person they spoke to obviously spoke Bengali, so it had to be a Bengali person, even if it was a fake embassy.

Worker #1:  Yes, they were Bengali speaking.

CK: So could it have been one of the Embassy staff, or what?

Worker #1:  Don’t know.

CK:  So the owner said if they didn’t work the 10 hours, he’d send back how many workers?

Worker #1:  One hundred eighty-one workers.

CK:  And then what happened?

Worker #1:  Then the workers were tired.  Some of the workers lay down on the road, and Mr. Osman wanted the workers to go to the house.  The workers were thinking, if they entered the house, maybe the police will lock the main gate.  The workers said no, we will not go in the house.  The workers were very tired.  It was 2:30, 3:30 in the afternoon.

CK:  It is 2:30 in the afternoon, not at night?

Translator:  Yes.

CK:  How many workers were there, sitting?

Worker #1:  All 181.  Before that six workers were deported, so it was 181 minus six, 175 workers.

CK:  So, they are sitting in the road, and then what happens?

Worker #1:  Finally the workers entered into the house.  Mr. Osman returned to the factory, and the workers to the house.  Then on Sunday, the 21st, Mr Osman said that he would talk to the workers on Sunday morning. 


Bangladeshi Ambassador Orders Workers to Work 10 Hours a Day Rather than the Legal Eight-Hours:

Worker #1:  The workers did not go to the factory on the 21st, they went to the Embassy.  So all the 175 workers sent to the Embassy, and the Ambassador said, I cannot talk to 170 workers.  Make a group of representatives of six members.  So the Ambassador talked to a group of six.  So in the meantime, two directors, both Salma and Osman, went to the Embassy.  And the Ambassador very forcefully told the workers they had to work ten hours.  Then some workers had an altercation, and they also agreed.  The workers were very disappointed, as the Ambassador told them to work 10 hours.

CK:  What was the name of the Embassy person’s name.  Do they know who he was.

Worker #1:  Mr. Masud Alim Jalas.

CK:  Was he the Ambassador?  What did he look like?  [Further explanation by Translator and discussion among the workers.  Workers begin to make call on cell phone.]

Translator:  Within one minute he will get the name of the Embassy person who presided at the meeting.

CK:  Osman was at the meeting?  He was already there?

Worker #1:   Yes.  The workers did not invite Salma and Osman, but they came on their own.... The Embassy took money from the owners....

Then all the workers returned to the house, and when they returned to the house the police, a police van, followed them.  When they got back home, after one hour, a person from the Embassy came to their house, from the Bangladeshi Embassy, Mr. Amin.  He was in the U.S. for some time with the diplomatic mission from Bangladesh....

The meeting [at the Embassy] was presided over by Mr. Eusuf from the Bangladesh Embassy...


Workers’ Demand:  Respect Jordanian Law

Mr. Amin and the director of the police came to the house.  They wanted to talk to the workers.  The directors told the workers that they had informed the owner and they needed some time to discuss with the owner and then they would decide.  The workers then replied, “you took three days from us.  Again you are asking for time.”  Then the Embassy person, Mr. Amin [Translator: The workers call him the “boss”] told the workers to go to work, and in the meantime we will see.  So Mr. Amin told the workers he needed one week to work on this issue and asked the workers to go to work.  Then on the same day, on Sunday the 21st, they went to work in the factory based on the commitment made by Mr. Amin that he would take one week.  We started working at 3:00 in the afternoon, around 3:30 on the 21st, and we worked 3 hours, till 6:30.  The next day, on Monday the 22nd, the owner had a meeting with the workers.  The owner spoke with the directors and came to the workers house on the morning of the 22nd.  The owner said, “why did you delay?  You could have told me about this problem earlier.”  The workers said, “We don’t have any relation with you.  We have bosses like directors, supervisors.  Why should we meet you to talk?  We can talk with our respective managers.”  Then the owner said that he wanted to talk to five workers chosen from all of the workers, that they should pick five workers to talk with the owner.  The workers’ demand was, number 1, eight hours general duty, and 95 JD and that overtime should be paid legally, and that the workers should be paid by the sixth of the following month, and that the quality of food should be improved.  These were the demands to the owner The owner immediately agreed, he said, “Yes, I agree with your demands.  You five workers come with me the next day.  Then the workers went to the factory and they started working at eight.  All the workers were working and the five workers were called to the office meet with the owner.  Then the five workers, the representatives of the workers, informed the owner that some days back six workers were deported.  The owner told the representatives of the workers, “I will respect all the demands you have made, but I need fifteen days to make a final decision.  In the meantime, continue working.”  The workers said, “Okay, fine, we agree.  But we will not work more than eight hours.”   But the owner said, no, 10 hours.  After 15 days you can have the decision.  So the workers thought that since the Embassy had told them one week and the owner said two weeks, the workers said, let’s give them two weeks to see what happens after that.  And the workers were working ten hours a day, and on June 3 –in the meantime, Mr. Amin who was supposed to meet with the workers after one week, he did not appear—Then on the 3rd of June, the workers had started working at eight in the morning.  At 10, Mr. Osman, the director said to go to the meeting room, all the workers.  Then Mr. Osman said that yes, Elham, the owner—the owner was not there—that Mr. Elham has agreed to your demands that you made.  Now don’t keep any pain in your hearts.  Be fresh, be energized and activated.  All the demands:  eight hours general duty, overtime, 95 JD wage, no deportations—all okey.    And the workers were happy and they went back to work.


Company Cuts the Workers Wages Further Below the Legal Minimum:

 

On the 6th of June, according to their demand, they were supposed to get their salary.  The workers asked for their salary, and Osman, the director said they did not prepare the salary sheet, the paystubs and it would take some time to prepare them and they would be paid on the eighth.  The workers were paid on June 8th, but they found that management cut 40 JD from their salary.  So the workers wanted to know why they had cut the 40 JD.  Mr. Osman said management had agreed to all their demands, but they had cut 40 JD for accommodation and food.  Mr. Osman also said that if the workers were not happy, he would talk to the workers again the next Saturday, the 10th of June, after lunch.  So the workers after having lunch on the 10th went to Mr. Osman together.  So the workers said, “What is the difference?  If you cut 40 Dinar from our salary we are paid less.  You say that all our demands are met, but if you cut it, our demands are not met.


Workers’ Passports Not Returned:

Then Mr. Osman said, “Okey, fine.  This is the first month we cut.  From the next time, they will not cut the 40 jd.  Forty-eight workers received their akama.  Twenty-seven workers did not receive their akama and passport, and management told them that 48 were supposed to get their passports.  Of the seventy-five, nobody got passports.  Management said what the workers were supposed to get, but we are not sure whether it has been finalized or not.   They say it is in process.  There is no news from the 27. 

CK:  Twenty-seven did not get the akama, but the others might have gotten it.

Translator:  Might.  They say it is processing.  …They have not received the passport.

BB:  But they received the akama? [An akama is a work visa]

Translator:  No.  Nobody received the akama.  Nobody received the passport.

Worker #1:   We have not seen any akama or passport.

CK:  So right now we are in June.  We are talking about the month of June.

Translator:  Yes.

Worker #1:  And the workers also told the management to give them their akama and passport.  So these 17 workers were told to go to the medical center for a blood test for their akama.   So at that time, when the workers were told to go to the medical center for blood testing, the workers got some hint that there was something going on, that they might be deported.  They got some messages from different sources, that ten people would be deported.  But we could not know who would be the ten workers who would be deported.  But we got information that from the 27, 10 workers would be deported. 

After getting some hints that they would be sent back, we talked to Mr. Amin of the Embassy of Bangladesh.  He said that no, ten workers would not be sent back, that he would intervene.  Since Mr. Amin gave some hope that they would not be sent, the workers felt a bit happy.  The 27 workers were split in two, one group of 17 and one group of 10, and these two groups were sent to the medical center on two different days to test their blood.

On July 6 we were paid, 115 JD.

CK:  Including overtime?

Worker #1:  Including 2 hours of overtime. 


Ten Workers Fired, Imprisoned, Beaten, Deported:

Worker #1:  The workers were pleased.  Then the workers were working, they were happy, there was no incident.  Then on August 3rd, these ten workers whose blood was tested were asked to go to Amman to collect their akama.  They said, “why do we have to go to Amman to get our akama?” And management said, “It is a new system.  You have to go to Amman.  The officer who issues the akama has to see you.  ‘Man-see.  Akama give’ system.”

Translator:  That means that somebody will see that this is the right person.

Worker #1:  The workers thought that it might be true, and the ten workers took their lunch at 12:30 and then there was a van, and they got into the car at 1:00 p.m. and they asked the driver, “Where are we going?” And they were taken to the airport.  The security guard saw that they were talking to the driver, then the guard [told] the driver, not to disclose that.   The workers were discussing their trip.  Some of the workers did not believe that they would receive the akama.


Workers Fight Back to Defend their Colleagues:

Worker #1:  After some time, the driver started the car at 2:00 and took the workers to the Sahab police station.  In the meantime, they saw their directors, managers, high officials in the police station before they arrived.  Another director was in the police station, Mr. Niyamotullah, and a new director, Mr. Falu.  They had arrived before.  Then the workers were thinking to themselves, “The managers told us to go to Amman to pick up the akamas, why did they take us to the police station?”  Then, some of the ten workers, they phoned their colleagues in the factory, “We are being sent back to Bangladesh.”  Immediately all the workers stopped working, and all went to the police station.  When the other workers, except these ten—they were in the van, tried to enter the main gate, the police gate, the policed locked the gate, and the workers in the van were taken out like they were in jail.  Then the director told the other workers who were outside demonstrating, he told them that yes, these ten workers would be deported now and if you make a demonstration, all the workers will be sent back to Bangladesh.  Then the workers said, “Okay, we will go, all of us, to Bangladesh.  These ten workers, they have no fault.  Why will they go to Bangladesh.”  And the management said to the other workers who were asking, “their passports have expired.  Their visas have expired.  They are now illegal.  This is the reason they have to go back to Bangladesh.”   Then the other workers tried to enter the police station.  They said, “No.  We don’t believe you and we will not go back unless these workers are paid.  On August 3rd, they were supposed to fly at 4:30, and since the workers were in front of the gate, the management had not been able to get [illegible] out and the management told the workers, they have already been sent, so there is no reason to wait here to see them.  They have already been sent.

Worker #2:  The police created panic.  They fired.  They shot.  Opened fire to create a panic so the workers would leave the police gate.  The workers were scared and went back home.

Worker #1:  In the meantime, the police took away all the mobile phones from the ten workers.  The workers had 11 mobile phones, and one among the 10 who was clever, hid their mobile inside their clothing so the police could not take it away from them.  Then the worker opened their suit and phoned their colleagues that we are still in the police station and please help us.  If you demonstrate at the police station, we could be freed.  Then, in the meantime, when the workers got back home, they were having a discussion with the management when they found out they were still in the police station.  Then they told management, “You lied.  They are still in the police station.  The workers among us received a phone call.”  Then the management called the police station and said, “Maybe there is a phone among them.  Please check again.”   Then the police said, “Do you have any mobile, and the workers said, “Yes, there is one mobile left.”  Then the beat the workers because they had kept one mobile.  …They beat them, slapped them, beat them with a stick for keeping the mobile phone.  The workers wanted to say their prayers and they were getting ready when the police came and beat them.

CK:  Beat the ten workers.

Worker #1:  The ten workers.   The police were suspicious that maybe the workers had more mobiles hidden somewhere else.  Then the police wanted to unclothe the workers…to have them open their shirts, pants, everything, so they would be naked—everything.  So they would not have any mobiles.  But when they were naked, there was nothing. 

Then on the 3rd of August, at midnight, they were taken from Sahab to another police station.  From Sahab to Julomamba (?).  They stayed there that night.  Then on the 4th, they were sent back to the Sahab police station.  On Friday the 4th, in the evening, the police gave the workers back their mobile phones, and they called their colleagues that they were still there in the police station.  Then they were taken to Al Tajamouat police station and their mobiles were taken away from them.  The workers who were in the factory were agitated.  They contacted the owner of the factory to ask why were the workers being sent back.  The owner said that management told him that that some workers are making a disturbance and this if ten workers are sent back that everything will be comfortable, it would cool down—that the other workers would learn a lesson that if they agitate, if they make demands, they will be sent back.  Then the owner went back to the factory, and the workers on Friday, August 5th did not go to work and the owner said, “I talked to the workers, I will bring them [back] after some time.  Please go to work.” Since the owner said he would bring them back, the workers went on working.  Since then, there was no connection with the workers. 

Then again, on the 6th, the owner came to see just ten workers and told them, “Your akama, passport are expired so legally we cannot keep you so please go back to Bangladesh and when the time comes, I will bring you [back], all ten workers.  The owner told the ten workers that around December 2006 he will invite new workers, around 100, and at that time you can come with the new workers.  Then on the 6th of August at around 4:30 p.m., they entered the airport of Amman and boarded the plane and arrived on the 7th.   On the way, while they were in the police station on the 3rd, 4th, 5th and half of the 6th, they were not provided any food.

Translator:  Water?

Worker #1:  Toilet water.

CK:  No food whatsoever?

Worker #1:  No food.

CK:  So no food for those four days.

Worker #1:  We told the police, please buy some food for us and we will pay.  So they paid, they gave the police money.

Worker #2:  We had to give the police a bribe too, to buy the food.  They charged for the food.

CK:  So they got food, but they had to bribe the police to get it…. So what are the conditions now?  Are they still receiving the 115 jd?

 

Abusive Working Conditions in 2005-2006

 

  • Workers stripped of passports;
  • Not provided residency permits, making it dangerous for them to venture outside the factory;
  • Fourteen to 16-hour daily shifts, seven days a week;
  • At the factory over 100 hours a week;
  • Just one day off every two to three months;
  • Paid below the legal minimum wage and cheated on overtime pay.

Worker #1:  Jaiman, factory management received us and took the passports away from the workers.  Twenty-five workers went in a group together.

CK:  Did you get their residency permits.

Worker #1:  They always kept the Akama and the passports in the office.

Worker #1:  When we entered we gave up the passports and we only got it when we arrived [in Bangladesh]

CK: So when you first got to the factory, what were the hours.

Worker #1:  General duty ten hours.  Overtime....  Starting 8:00 in the morning.  Lunch from 12:30 to one.  Then from 1:00 to 6:30.

CK:  And overtime?

Worker #1:  The first month we worked like this.  From the 2nd month...we started 8:00 in the morning and we worked until 8:30 at night..

CK: But you didn’t count it as overtime?

Worker #2:  After 3 months, we worked until 10:00, 11:00, 12:00

CK: After 3 months you went on to work until 10:00,11:00, 12:00

Worker #1:  And sometimes until 3:00 a.m., and we had to come back at 8:00 in the morning the following day.

CK:  Did you get one Friday off a week?

Worker #1:  No we worked on Friday.

CK:   Did you get one Friday off a month?

Worker #1:  After 2-3  months.  Every 2-3 months we got one day off.

CK: How often did they work until....what would be the most common, that most of the time they worked until 10:00 pm but once a month they worked until 11:00?

Worker #1:  Sometimes they worked five days till ten and two days until 12:00, but some weeks they worked in a row until 12 at night....There was no hard and fast rule when they were closed and when they were open.

CK:  When they worked until 10:00 what time did they get supper?

Worker #1:  We were given food at 6:30.  We got food at the factory.

CK:  6:30?  Until when?

Worker #1:  7:00.  Half an hour.

CK:  And you would actually eat inside the factory?

Worker #1:  We took our food in the canteen.

CK:  And what was your general duty wage?

Worker #1General duty, 10 hours, and we received 80 JD

(Note: $113 U.S.—which was 16% below the legal minimum wage.)

CK:  For a 60-hour week.  (Note: Regular, legal work week is 48 hours.)

Translator:  10 hours a day. (Note: Regular legal work day is 8 hours.)

CK: For overtime what did they get.

Worker #1:  Ninety, sometimes 95, maximum 100.  (Note: $134.28 to $141.34 per month)

CK: So that includes the regular wage.

Translator:  It includes the regular wage.

Worker #1:  We worked 110, 120 hours overtime but we got maximum 100 jd.


Corporate Audits a Sham, Workers Forced to Lie:

CK:  Did they realize that general duty was supposed to be eight hours and not 10 hours?

Worker #1:  According to the contract, it was eight hours.

CK:  They signed that.

Worker #1:  Here and in Jordan we signed it.  And when the auditor comes, the company shows them that we worked eight hours.

CK:  So they kept two books.

Worker #1:  And when the auditors asked us, we had to tell lies, that we worked eight hours.  And the company actually threatened us, if we don’t lie we would be forced back to Bangladesh.  Sometimes workers complained to the managers, we have a contract of eight hours, but you are charging 10 hours and you ask us to tell the auditors lies, but we cannot tell lies.  Management said, then you have to go back to Bangladesh.  Some time in April-May, some buyer from America came...before March.


Forced to work a 24-hour shift:

Worker #1:  I talked with one of my colleagues there and they work all night yesterday.  They entered the factory at 8:00 in the morning on the 7thand they worked all night shifts til 8:00 a.m. September 8th.

Translator:  Importantly, the 7th is a Muslim holiday—they believe that on that day God will decide their fate for the next year, so they say their prayers and are good but…They could not say their prayers.

CK:  And that was a Friday, September 7?

Worker #2:  No.  Thursday morning, at 8:00 in the morning.  Thursday was the 7th.

Worker #1:  And they worked the whole day, Thursday and Friday—that’s 24 hours.

CK:  So that was just a few days ago that they worked right through?

Worker #2:  Yes.  Yesterday, two days ago.

Routine 14 to 16-Hour Shifts:

CK: Let’s talk about the factory first. You just did an update on Friday by phone. Tell me about it.

Worker #1: Last Friday morning, September 8th

So now they work sometimes to 12 at night, 1 at night, 11 at night. 7 days a week. On Friday, the company does not keep any records that the workers work on the Friday. No timecards. Nothing. And Friday, Jordanian and Palestinian workers did not work. All Bengali workers worked. And Jordanians didn’t work past 4:30.  They only work 8 hours.


Current Conditions at the Atateks Factory, as of September 2006:

Worker #1:  The workers are working till 10:00, 11:00, 12:00 midnight..

CK:  Are they getting Friday off?

Worker #1:  No.  No workers… The workers are in fear of losing [their] job, so they accept.

CK:  So, they are working from 8:00 in the morning until 10:00 or 11:00 or even later.

Worker #1:  Or 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 a.m.

CK:  And they are working all of Fridays.

Worker #1:  All Friday, all Fridays…  But when the auditor comes, they say no.

CK:  And on Friday’s when to they work to, 3:00?  2:00?

Worker #1:  Same, 8:00, 9:00, 10:00.  The earliest they can get out is 6:30.

CK:  And when they calculate the overtime… So they make 115 for the 10 hours of work a day… and including overtime, what do they get paid now?

Worker #2:  120-130.

Worker #1:  120, 130.  They paid the salary of 95 jd on the first week, but later they paid all the overtime.

CK:  So they are getting paid the 95 jd for the eight hours, and 115 jd for the 60-hour work week. [General assent]  And if they work beyond that they can earn 120-130 jd.

Translator:  And from the 95 jd, management cut 5 jd, for Social Security.

Click here for a printable version of the Atateks Report

 

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