Reports

September 27, 2006

Silver Planet Report, Jordan

Eight Workers Fired, Imprisoned, Beaten, Forcibly Deported For Asking for Their Most Basic Legal Rights

 

Table of Contents

 

Silver Planet Apparel Co. Ltd.
Al Tajamouat Industrial City
Sahab, Jordan
(Formerly, Al Kawkab Al Fiddi Ltd.)

Phone: 962-6-402-0062
           962-6-402-0064
Contact: Mr. Andel Syed Ali
Email: [email protected]

Ownership: According to the Jordanian government, the owner is Palestinian.  (However, prior to the name change, when the factory was still called Al Kawkab, it was owned by an investor from the United Arab Emirates.)

-Number of workers:  At least 1,000 (450+ guest workers from Bangladesh, 400 from Sri Lanka, 80 from India and 40 workers from Jordan).

-Production:  Currently producing for Wal-Mart-the George label (RN #52469, Girl's size 6, 77% polyester, 20% rayon & 3% spandex).  The workers believe that the majority of production is for Wal-Mart.      

September 2, 2006--Eight Workers-seven from Bangladesh and one from India--Fired, Imprisoned, Beaten and Forcibly Deported for asking for their most basic legal rights:

  • Mr. Eusuf, helper (Passport No. W 0686469)
  • Ms. Tara Miah, operator (Passport No. N 0030012)
  • Mr. Anowar Hossain, helper (Passport No. R 0759966)
  • Mr. Yeasin, helper (Passport No. W 0310212)
  • Mr. Saidan Raham, helper (Passport No. P 0475596)
  • Mr. Arshad
  • Mr. Amzad
  • Mr. Lalzi, operator, (Indian)

Five hundred Bangladeshi and Indian workers struck on May 31 and marched to a local Ministry of Labor office demanding that the Silver Planet factory respect Jordan's labor laws.

The Labor Ministry official, the Jordanian police and the Bangladeshi Embassy did not help the workers-instructing them instead that they must work 10 hours a day, rather than the regular, legal eight hours.

On August 24, the factory owner arrived from Dubai and requested that seven of the workers leaders meet with him.  When the workers approached his office, they were met by 15 to 20 police, who handcuffed the workers and took them to jail.

The workers spent eight days in jail, most often sleeping on the floor and with access to water for just a half hour each day.  On the first day, they were beaten and slapped.

On September 2, 2006, the eight workers were forcibly deported-seven to Bangladesh and one to India.

 

ALERT


Jordanian Government Accuses the Deported Workers of

Vandalism, Physical Violence and Threatening Other Workers

The National Labor Committee finds this very difficult to believe.  For one thing, some of these workers had been at the factory for a full year, during which there were no reports of violence.  The first accusations of vandalism and violence apparently arose only after the workers became aware of their basic legal rights in Jordan and set out nonviolently to win those rights.  All 500 Bangladeshi and some Indian workers jointly participated in a work stoppage and signing an "application" to factory management asking the company to pay the legal minimum wage and to respect wage and hour laws in Jordan.  There was no violence or coercion.

9/28/2006:  We just spoke with the deported Silver Planet workers in Bangladesh.  They strongly deny the governments charges.  The workers say, "we never committed made threats or committed vandalism.  There is no evidence of any of this in the factory."

The NLC and the deported workers would welcome and gladly participate in an independent investigation of these allegations.  We would also encourage the Jordanian government to similarly investigate human trafficking and conditions of involuntary servitude at the Silver Planet factory.  To our knowledge, the Jordanian government has not launched one single investigation into the hundred or more garment factories that trafficked in foreign guest workers.

 

Jordan Ministry of Labor Official

Who refused to help the workers:

Mr. Amjad Wishah
Ministry of Labor
Director of the 3rd District Court-Amman

Phone:  962-6-402-2995
Mobile:  962-0-777-322-640

Bangladeshi Embassy Official

Who also refused to help the workers:

Ambassador Nazmul Hudda

 

Abusive Wage and Hour Conditions Persist at the Silver Planet Factory

Forced Overtime:

  • Routine 14-hour daily shifts from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.-some 15 and 16-hour shifts;
  • Every Thursday, the workers are forced to work a 24 or 25-hour all-night shift, from 8:00 a.m. straight through to 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. on Friday morning;
  • Routinely at the factory 92 1/2 hours a week.

In order to receive Friday off-which is the legal weekly holiday in Jordan-the Silver Planet workers must put in a 24 or 25-hour shift starting at 8:00 a.m. each Thursday and continuing straight through to 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. the following Friday morning.  The workers report mandatory 14-hour shifts at least four times a week, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and one 12 1/2 hour shift ending at 8:30 p.m.  Under this schedule, at a minimum the workers are at the factory 92 1/2 hours a week.  With 1 1/2 hours of break time each day for lunch and supper, the workers are actually toiling 83 1/2 hours a week, including 35 1/2 hours of overtime on top of the regular 48 hours of work.  This exceeds Jordan's legal limit on permissible overtime hours by 250 percent.

Routine 14-Hour Shift
--At the factory 92 1/2 hours a week-

8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.            (Work, 5 hours)

12:30 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.            (Lunch, 45 minutes)

1:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.              (Work, 3 1/2 hours)

4:45 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.              (Tea break, 15 minutes)

5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.              (Work, 2 1/2 hours)

7:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.              (Supper, 30 minutes)

8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.            (Work, 2 hours)

(There are also 15 and 16-hour shifts ending at 11:00 p.m. or midnight)

 

Paid below the legal minimum wage and cheated on overtime pay:

For years, the Silver Planet workers were paid just 43 1/2 cents an hour, and $26.89 a week, which was 33 percent below the legal minimum wage of 64 1/2 cents an hour. They were also shortchanged on the proper overtime pay due them. At most, including the 48 regular and 35 1/2 overtime hours, the workers earned just 115 JD a month, or $162.54, and $37.51 a week. This was almost 40 percent short of what they should have earned for the 83 1/2 hours of work. They should have earned at least $59.64 a week.

It was only after the workers struck in August 2006 that the workers thought they had finally won their legal right to an eight-hour day and payment of the legal minimum wage of 64 1/2 cents an hour. However, after granting the wage increase to meet Jordan's laws, management turned around and illegally started to deduct 26 JD a month from the workers' wages for food and dorm expenses, which ended up again actually lowering their wages to just 69 JD, or $97.53 a month, whereas the legal minimum is $134.28 a month. The workers were back to where they started, being cheated of 17 1/2 cents an hour, or 27 percent of the legal minimum wage owed them.

Management also continues to shortchange the workers on their legal overtime pay by setting daily production goals excessively high. When the workers fail to reach these goals, they are required to remain working without pay until the target is met. In this way, a worker forced to work five or six hours of overtime a day would, in fact, be paid for just one to two hours.

 

Legal minimum wage in Jordan

95 JD ($134.28 a month)

  • 64 ½ cents an hour
  • $30.99 a week (48 hours)
  • $134.28 a month
  • $1,611.31 a year

 

After illegally deducting 26 JD for food and housing, Silver Planet workers paid 27% below the legal minimum wage

69 JD a month ($97.53)

  • 47 cents an hour
  • $22.51 a week (48 hours)
  • $97.53 a month
  • $1,170.32 a year

 

Chronology

A three-month struggle at the Silver Planet plant by 500 Bangladeshi and Indian guest workers to win their most basic legal rights ended with the firing, imprisonment and forcible deportation of eight workers.  Despite appeals for help, a local Jordanian Ministry of Labor official did nothing to assist the workers.  Neither did officials from the Bangladeshi Embassy.  The workers were abandoned.  Silver Planet factory management continues to violate Jordanian wage and hour laws.  The workers are frightened that more deportations will soon follow.

May 18 (Thursday):

Workers from the Silver Planet factory, along with 100 or so workers from other factories in the Al Tajamouat Industrial City attend a private meeting with a visiting U.S. delegation made up of the National Labor Committee and United Steelworkers, where flyers in Bengali are distributed which clearly explain to the workers, for the first time, their legal rights under Jordan's laws. 

 (Note:  The delegation, prior to this visit, had received numerous assurances from Jordanian government officials that there would be no reprisals taken against any worker who met with us, and that certainly no one would be fired or deported for meeting with us.  This turned out not to be true.)

May 31 (Wednesday):

Five hundred Bangladeshi and a few Indian workers strike protesting the long hours, low pay, substandard factory food and other violations.

The workers march to a nearby local Ministry of Labor Court office where they hold a demonstration in the street.  Eventually four workers are allowed to enter the court building to meet with the local Labor Ministry official, Mr. Amjad Wishah, director of the 3rd District Court in Amman.  The workers explain the violations in the factory and ask for help in winning respect for Jordan's labor laws.  The Minister agrees with the workers that the legal regular workday is eight hours, not ten as the company had been saying.  He say he will help.  The Minister asks the workers to return to the factory, where he will meet them in half an hour. 

The Labor Ministry official arrives, accompanied by police, and immediately enters the factory to meet with management.  When he comes out about an hour later, he has changed his stance and now instructs the workers that they must continue working a "regular" ten-hour day.  (Note:  Instead of working the regular 48-hour week, Silver Planet workers were being told they would have to work a 60-hour week, with no increase in their wages.  As a result, instead of earning the legal minimum wage of 64 ½ cents an hour, Silver Planet workers would be earning 20 percent below the minimum.)

The workers do not accept the proposal made by the Labor Ministry official.  Some workers return to the dorm, while others go to the Bangladeshi Embassy to ask for help.  The Bangladeshi Ambassador, Mr. Nazmul Huda, also agrees to return with the workers for a meeting at the dorm. 

The ambassador tells the workers the same thing:  that they have to work a regular 10-hour day, but that the company will improve food and living conditions and start returning the workers' passports.  (Note:  After the release of the first NLC report in May, "U.S.-Jordan FTA Descends into Human Trafficking and Involuntary Servitude," foreign workers all over Jordan started to receive their passports in June.)

June:

For the first time, the workers are paid the legal minimum wage for the regular eight hour day.  However, at the same time, management illegally deducts $36.75 from the workers' wages to pay for their food.  The workers have not gained anything.  In fact, they have actually lost money.  Further, the workers continue to be shortchanged on their overtime pay.

August 21 (Monday):

Five hundred Bangladeshi and Indian workers jointly sign an "application" to Silver Planet management, asking the company to respect their legal rights under Jordanian law.  Specifically, the workers request:

  • Payment of the legal minimum wage;
  • End to the illegal 26 JD deduction for food;
  • That they be paid their salary in the first week of the following month;
  • That overtime be recorded and paid correctly;
  • End the deduction of three days wages if a worker is ill and misses one day; and,
  • Improve the quality of food.

August 22 (Tuesday):

Management calls ten workers to a meeting and declares they will not give in to the workers' demands and will continue to deduct money for food.

The ten workers say that they will have to discuss this with all the workers.  They acknowledge that factory conditions have improved somewhat and are marginally better than in the past.

August 23 (Wednesday):

Management calls the same ten workers to another meeting, again stating that the company will not agree to the workers demands and if the workers cannot accept this, they should leave and find work in another factory.  Either way, management says, the company will continue to cut 26 JD ($36.75) a month from the workers' minimum wage.  The ten workers say they will again discuss this with all the workers.  (Note:  It is untrue that the workers could quit if they wanted to  and seek work in a better factory.  The workers' contracts and visas tie them to a single factory.  This was part of the trap the workers were in.)

August 24 (Thursday):

The day before, the workers had heard that the owner of the factory had flown to Jordan.  (Note: The workers believe the owner is from Dubai.  According to the Jordanian government the owner is Palestinian.)

On Thursday at 2:00 p.m., after the lunch break, seven of the ten worker representatives  are called to a meeting with the factory owner.  As the workers enter his office, they are followed in by 15 to 20 police.  Each worker is grabbed by two or three police officers and handcuffed.  They are all forced into a van and driven to the Sahab police station, where the worker report being beaten.

That night they are moved to another police station called Jabolanman.

August 25, 26, 27 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday):

The workers are returned to the Sahab police station, where they are held for three days.

August 27 (Sunday):

At 2:00 p.m. the workers are shifted to another police station in the Al Tajamouat Industrial City.

Silver Planet management arrives and pays the workers their back wages, but they do not return the monthly Social Security deductions the workers are supposed to receive when they leave Jordan.  That night the workers are returned to the Jabolanman police station.

September 2 (Saturday):

After spending 10 days in jail, the workers are taken to the airport and put on a plane to Bangladesh.  They have not been allowed to return to their dormitory and must leave Jordan without their personal belongings.  While in jail, the workers have had access to water for just a half hour each day.  They have had to pay their jailers to give them food.   The workers say they were terribly frightened the entire time they were imprisoned.

September 10:

Factory conditions at the Silver Planet plant continue to violate  Jordan's labor laws.  The workers report being frightened that there could be another wave of forcible deportations.

 

Human Trafficking, Illegal Working Conditions and No Help from the Labor Ministry

An Interview with
Seven Workers Forcibly Deported from Silver Planet Factory
After Asking for their Legal Rights
-Beaten and Imprisoned-

 Transcript, September 10, Dhaka, Bangladesh

 

CK:  What happened when they were deported?  Why were they deported?

Workers: The problems were: long working hours, low pay, the quality of the food is bad. They called a strike on May 31.

CK:  Because of the long hours, the low pay, the miserable food, they called a strike on May 31?

Workers: They went to the labor court office in Jordan and on the road they made a blockade.  And when we started to go to the labor court the factory management they also went to the labor court.

CK:  How many workers were going?

WorkersAll the Bangladeshis, 500.  We called a strike because we knew these laws about Jordan.

CK:  From the fliers?

Workers:  We came to know our rights. I went to a meeting in Al-Sahab with Charlie and the others.  So, now we thought: "we wanted to get our rights."  We called the strike.

(Note: A National Labor Committee and United Steelworkers union delegation met with nearly 100 Bangladeshi workers on Thursday evening, May 18, 2006.  At that meeting we distributed 70 or so leaflets for the first time informing the workers of their legal rights, which were quickly copied and spread across Jordan.)


Labor Ministry Officials Tell Workers They Must Work 10 Hours, not Eight Hours:

 

Worker Three:  Police did not allow us to enter the court.  So finally 10 workers among the group went into the court office.  We wanted to meet with high officials of the labor court but it was in a smaller room, so 10 workers were not allow there. Four men met with officials of the labor court and among the four, I was one of them.  So the high officials wrote down the names of the workers represented, but they only took down his name. I raised the problems that we faced and our demands, also. Then the high official told us to go to the factory and told us he would be joining us and within half an hour he also came to the factory. He entered in the factory and we were outside the factory.  He was there for about an hour and he came and told the workers we had to work 10 hours regular.

CK:  So he came out and told you you had to work 10 hours?

Worker: And that for working 10 hours we would get 95 JD.  (Note:  This is a violation of Jordanian law, since the legal minimum wage of 95 JD--$134.28-a month is based on an eight-hour day.) 

Worker: The workers did not accept this proposal.  When the workers went back home, some went to the Bangladeshi embassy.  The ambassador came to the house of the workers, Mr. Nazmul Huda.

CK:  Do you know who the labor court guy was from Jordan? Do you remember his name?

Worker:  This is the card of the high official.

Worker:  And the police officials also came.

CK:  The labor court official told you that you would have to work 10 hours a day for 95 JD?  Which is a violation of the law?

Worker:  Yes, and then he went away.  We are saying that when we talked in his office, he made the commitment that he would ensure we have 8 hours work, but when he entered the factory for one hour he changed.  And he told the workers that we had to work 10 hours for 95 JD.


Bangladeshi Embassy Official Insists that the Workers Work 10 Hours a Day and Not the Legal Eight Hours:

CK:  What did the ambassador say to you?

Workers: The ambassador was saying that we have to work 10 hours. The company will improve the food, improve the living conditions, but we have to work 10 hours.  And also that if the workers want our passports back, we can get it.  We got their passports.

Workers: They started giving the passports in June. 

CK:  But the ambassador said you would have to work 10 hours general duty? 

Workers: Yes, he said [that].

CK:  And you were going to get...  Would you get your overtime correctly, did you win anything?


Worker Appeal to Management to Respect Jordan's Labor Laws:

Workers: All the workers sent in an application signed by all the workers.

CK:  How many workers?

Workers: All Bengali workers.  500.  And Indian.

Worker:  We signed an application to the management saying... we gave points. Number one: salary, not to card the 26 [JD] for food, not to charge 26 [JD for food]. Number 2:  We want to get our salary on the first week of the following month. If workers remain absent and cut three days, and if they don't meet targets, they should not cut overtime.  And quality of food should improve.  For breakfast, the company gives pita bread. We want tea, house change.  House improvements.

CK:  Better housing?  So you didn't get tea for breakfast?

Workers: No.

CK:  So you wanted to get paid your overtime correctly, that would be the big point?

Workers: And then... so we sent in the application and on August 22nd . . .

CK:  When did you send the application, what date?

Workers: 21st of August.

CK:  21st of August?

Workers: August.  21st of August. We sent the application...  22nd the management called the workers, the 10 workers.

CK:  They called 10 workers?  Why those ten?

Workers: It's a big group, the management could not handle the group so they wanted some representatives.  10.  Any ten workers.  ...The meeting on the 22nd, the management stuck to the rules, that they would cut 26 JD for food.

CK: They said we're going to stick to that?

Workers: Yes, stick to those rules.

CK: So the management wouldn't give?

Workers:  They said, if we stay here or not, but [they] will cut 26 JD for food.

CK: What did you say?

Translator: Workers are saying there is a difference between earlier conditions and now. The management said that if you worked on Fridays you could be compensated and make more money. 

CK: But you were working on Fridays?

Workers:  They wanted us to work on Fridays. 

CK: I see, and not work the all night shift?

Workers:   Management called the workers on the 23rd, the same 10 workers they revisited. And they said the same thing. They stuck to their principles: ‘We have to cut, if you want to go to another company you can go.'  Then one worker told the management that they needed to talk to other colleagues and then they would share their experience.

 

Police Handcuff Workers and Take Them to Jail:

CK: Then what?

Workers:  And on the same day, in the afternoon, on the 23rd the factory management called the owner and brought him in the factory in the afternoon. We saw him in the afternoon.  The owner. He came from Dubai to Jordan.  On the 24th, after lunch at 2, the management called five workers among these 10 and then they added two more. From the ten, they called 7.  We were asked to meet with the owner. When we went there, we did not speak, we just saw the owner sitting there. It was just one minute. At the same time the police entered the room. Around 15-20 police followed us.

CK: How many police?

Workers:  Fifteen to 20.  And when they entered, they didn't ask anything. They just took us away.  Two, three police caught one worker and then immediately they forced us to go to the van.  They directed us, you can imagine. We were going to the Bangladeshi embassy.  The police had a belt and handcuffs, and a belt.  We were in the van and the police asked us, "Where is your passport?"  And we told them that our passports were in our house. They took us to the house, but we couldn't enter the house. We told them where our passports were, they went and took the passports. 

CK: How did they speak?  Was this done in English?  How could you communicate with each other?

Workers:  We know a little bit of Arabic.

Workers:  So they brought our passports from our house.  We actually did not enter the house. The police did. And after getting the passports, we were taken to the Sahab police station.  And then, at night, we were shifted to another police station, Jabolanman.  Then again, we were shifted to the Sahab police station.  So, we were three days at the Sahab police station. Then they brought us to Al Tajamouat police station.  So, on the 27th we were at the police station. The company management came . . .

CK: This was on August 27th?  You had been in jail for three days?

Workers: Three days.  23rd, 24th, 25th. On the 27th we met with our bosses, like management, on the 27th in the afternoon, after 2 p.m.  At Al-Tajamouat police station.  So there, the management paid our back wages, two months back wages. The management did not pay [inaudible].

We told the management and the police, ‘Since you are deporting us please allow us to go to our homes, to bring our luggage, our clothing bags,' but they did not allow it.  We could not enter.  We left all our clothing and luggage back there.'

So we were wearing the same dress for 11 days.  The same clothing for 11 days.

Then, after getting our pay, we, the 27th night, we went to another police station, Jabolanman.  We were there until we left Jordan.

CK: Which is when?

Workers: We came back on September 3rd.

CK: You were shipped out on September 2?

WorkersWe left, we boarded the plane on the second, and we got back to Dhaka on the 3rd.  This month.

CK: So you left all of your possessions behind in Jordan?

Workers:  Everything.

CK: And in jail, were you treated well?

Workers:  Since we had no money, we couldn't buy food. We hardly got any food.  By the 27th we bought some food. 

CK: So what food were you given?

Workers: After the 27th, we bought something.

CK: But before that, what kind of food did you get?

Workers:   Leftover food. When there was some leftover food, they give us the leftover food.

CK:  Did you have beds?

Workers: Only 1 time, in the Sahab police station.

CK: The rest of the time you slept on the ground?

Workers: On the floor. No water.

CK: What did you drink, how did you drink?

Workers: There was a Bengali in the cell. They helped. They brought water. There were some old people living in the cell. Some people tried to cross the border to go to Syria, Jordan. When they were caught, they were put in a cell for a long time. So they were used to having the jail life. so they helped us get water.

BB: So the people who have been in jail for a long time have regular access to water? But they helped you?

Workers: Yes. They have been in jail a long time. They are old.

CK: And how did you go to the bathroom?

Workers: For 24 hours we got access to water for half an hour.

CK:  Access to water?

Workers:  When the water came, we filled the bottles and asked the help of the old Bangladeshi prisoners.

CK:  But how did you go to the bathroom? Were you let out to go to the bathroom?

Workers:   Very dirty. Very dirty.

CK:  The bathrooms were filthy?

Workers: Yes, very dirty.

CK: But you could go to the bathroom whenever you needed to?

Workers:   Yes. There was nothing we have to go to start with.

CK:  You weren't handcuffed, when you were in jail? Were you ever beaten in the jail?

Workers:  Inside the jail, they didn't put the handcuffs on. Once we were beaten, at Sahab.

BB: Were you frightened when you were in prison?

Workers: Yes, we were frightened. We couldn't even imagine that we had to face this reality.

CK:   Have you been in touch with the factory? Are things the same? Do violations continue?

Workers:   Now, the same conditions are prevailing in the factory. Workers are very scared.

CK: So, it looks like the embassy didn't help you. The labor court in Jordan did not help you. 


The Deported Workers Returned to a Staggering Debt in Bangladesh:

CK: [Your loans] cannot be paid. How much do each of you still owe?

Worker:  I was in Jordan for 7 months.

Worker: I was there for 12 months.

Worker: I was there for 13 months.

BB: So, how much money do you owe on your loans?

Workers:  The majority of the money is still owed. 

 

One Thousand Workers Producing for Wal-Mart:

CK:  When did the Silver Plant name come?

Workers:  Fourteen months.

CK:  Fourteen months?

Worker One:  Yes. 

CK: How many workers are in the factory?

Worker Three: One thousand.

CK: So it's huge.  How many Bangladeshis?

Workers: 500.

CK: And Sri Lankan?

Workers: 400.   And the rest are Jordanian.

Worker Three:  50 Jordanian.  Indian, 85.

Worker One:  Bengali, 550.  Sri Lankan, 400.  50 Jordanian and Palestinian.  85 Indian.

CK:  So it's a little more than 1,000?

Worker Two: 1,085.

Worker One:  450 Bengali.

CK:  Do you know the labels that were made in the factory?

Worker One:  Wal-Mart t-shirts.

Worker Two:  And pants.

BB:  What label name of Wal-Mart?

CK:  Could you call a factory friend or something to find the actual name of the label?  There is no Wal-Mart label, it would be like Basic Edition or something like that.

Translator:  They could not say exactly the name.

CK:  Is it possible . . . do they have any contacts left in the factory who would know?

Translator:  They have already been contacted and maybe they will send [some].  They made phone [calls].

CK:  How do they know it's Wal-Mart?

Worker Three:  They saw the carton of Wal-Mart.

CK:  Usually there would be lots of different labels in the factory, like it could be K-Mart, Wal-Mart, JC Penney.  It usually wouldn't be 100% for Wal-Mart.

Workers:  Wal-Mart.  100%. 

 

Stripped of their Passports, Forced to Work a Regular 12-Hour Day Rather Than the Legal Eight Hours:

CK:  Why?  What happened?  When did you get there?

Worker One:  August 1, 2005. 

CK:  That's when you all arrived?

Workers:  In Jordan.

CK:  How much did they pay for their contract?

Translator:  170,000 taka. (Note: There are 69.49 Taka to $1.00 U.S., so $170,000 Taka = $2,446.40)

CK: All of you?

Worker 2:  150,000. ($2,158.58)

Worker 3:  160,000. ($2,302.49)

CK:  Why is it different?

Translator:  They got different deals.

BB:  Did they negotiate the price?

Translator:  This is after bargaining.  They wanted more, but after bargaining they reduced to this amount.

CK:  So what did you get?  What happened when you arrived at the factory?

Worker One:  When we arrived at the airport we were received by a [inaudible] for three hours, so 10 workers we went together in a group and they took away our passports.  At night we got to the factory.  And we were at the airport for half an hour and then we went to the house.  And the next day, the second of August, we started working.

CK:  What were the hours?

Workers:  12 hour duty.  General duty, 12 hours.

CK:  12 hours?  Not 10?

Workers:  It includes the lunch time.

CK:  You were essentially working from 8 o'clock in the morning to 8 o'clock at night?

Workers:  8 to 8.

CK:  And when did you get off for lunch?

Workers:  At 12:00 p.m.

CK:  For an hour?

Workers:  45 minutes.

CK:  Did you get a supper break?

Workers:   Got a break for tea-time.  4:45 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Dinner time at 7:30 p.m.

CK:  7:30 to when?

Workers:  8:00 p.m.

CK:  And then you went home?

WorkersThen overtime starts from 8.  Until 11 or midnight.

CK:  And you did that once a week?

WorkersEveryday.  Everyday.  Friday until 12.

CK:  Did you get any Fridays off at all?

WorkersOne month, one Friday.

CK:  And what time did you work until on Fridays?

Workers:  7:30 p.m.

CK:  Was it more common to work until 11 or to 12?  Or was it half and half?  What was the most common hour you left the factory?

 

Forced to Work 24-Hour Shifts, Threatened with Deportation if They Objected, Workers Fall Sick:

WorkersEighty percent of the time until 11.  20 percent until 12.  And in a week, 3 days night shift.  3 days a week.  Day and night, 24 hours.  Morning time 8 a.m. to 8 a.m.

CK:  How could you go to work the next day?

Workers:  The following day we got some hours off.  We started at 2 p.m.

CK:  So you would work from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.?

Workers:  We actually did that 3 times a week.  This all night shift.

CK:  Three times a week?  You must have been exhausted.

WorkersWe asked the management but they say if you stay here, you have to do it. Otherwise go back to Bangladesh.  When we are there we faced many hardships. We have to do it and we got sick.

CK:  What exactly did you make at the factory? 

Workers:  T-shirts and pants.

CK:  What kind of pants?

Workers:  Jeans.  Denim.

CK:  Like Dungarees?

Workers:  Denim.

CK:  Ladies pants?

Workers:  Gents.

CK:  But it was denim?

Workers:  Denim.

CK:  And what were the t-shirts like?

Workers:  Short sleeved and long sleeved.  With hoods.

CK:  So they were like jackets?  Did you pull it over?

Workers:  Jackets also.

CK:  It was like a sweatshirt?

Workers:  Different item.

CK:  The t-shirts wouldn't have a hood.

Workers: We did t-shirts and sweatshirts and pants.

CK:  And the sweatshirt, it had a hood and a zipper or did you pull it over?

Workers:  Zipper.

CK:  Was it fleece?

Workers:  Soft.

CK:  So you worked all these hours, did you get paid overtime correctly?  What were you paid?

 

Paid Below the Legal Minimum Wage and Cheated on Overtime Pay:

Workers: First five months we got 85 minus 5 JD.

(Note: 1 Jordanian Dinar = $1.41343 U.S., so 80 JD = $113.07 per month.)

CK:  And that was for working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week?

Workers:  For 12 hours they got 80 JD.

CK:  What did you get with overtime?

Workers:  105-110 JD.  115 JD.  (115 JD = $162.54 a month.)

CK:  So 110 would be the maximum?

Workers:  Maximum 115.

CK:  And you were obviously being cheated of their regular overtime pay.

Workers:  We could not meet the target and card overtime. 

 

Management Cheats Workers by Setting Excessive Production Goals and Forcing Them to Work Unpaid until Quota is Reached:

WorkersI can't make 100 and the target is 200.  If I cannot make it, they don't count overtime.  So I do six hours overtime and they card 1 or 2 hours maximum.

CK:  So how many hours would you work free?

Workers:  On average one worker would do 150 hours of overtime. 

CK:  130 to 150 hours of overtime?  It was 130 to 150 hours of overtime a month?

Workers:  150 - 60 - 70 hours.

CK:  When you say that, do you mean, when you calculate the overtime as 150, 160, 170 hours, are you counting on everything above 8 hours a day or 12 hours a day?

Workers:  After working 12 hours, I also work 150 hours.  It's supposed to be a 48 hour work week.

CK:  You work all of these overtime hours and you were cheated of your wages?

Workers:  If I could be paid direct overtime, it would be more, my salary would be 160 - 170 JD.

CK:  Was the treatment at the factory harsh or was it OK?

Workers:  The supervisor called us names.

Workers:   They called us names.  They cut overtime.

CK:  So if you used the bathroom or what?

Workers:  For not meeting the target.

Workers: I can make 100 they give target 200. 

CK:  So the target was almost twice as high as you could make?

Worker:  Now the target is too much.

 

No Government Holidays:

CK:  Still?  Did you get government holidays or vacations, Eid?

Workers:  Two days each Eid.

CK:  And vacation?

Workers:  No.  Always work.  Work always and cheated of overtime. 

 

Seventy Workers Crowded in Hot Dorm Room with Access to Water just Twice each Week:

CK:  Was the dormitory OK?  The living conditions.

Workers:  20-24 in a room.

CK:  And how big?

Translator:  They live in factory housing.  In one house they staying 120 people.

CK:  That was inside the free trade zone?

Workers:  Inside.

CK:  And there were bunk beds?

Workers:  Double beds.  Until now there is a warehouse were 70 people live on the ground.

CK:  There are no rooms it's just an open warehouse?  Is it crowded?

Workers:  Yes, it's crowded.

CK:  Does it have air conditioning and fans?

Workers:  No fans.

CK:  So it's very hot?

Workers:  It's a ground.  No place to take bath.  If we inhale or exhale it's hot because so many people are living there.

CK:  Did you have water all the time?

Workers:  Twice a week.

CK:  What were you fed?

Workers:  Pita bread and lentils.

CK:  For breakfast and for lunch?

Workers:  Twice a week, chicken.  Once chicken, once beef.  Three days, vegetables.  Two days, lentils. 

CK:  And for supper?

Workers:  Vegetables, always.  The food was very bad.

 

Passports Confiscated:

WorkersIn the factory, 220 workers, Bengali, they don't have any akama.*  No akama, no passport.

CK:  Nobody had any passport or no one?  Didn't have akama?

Translator:  They got the passports.

CK:  When did you get them?

Workers:  May.  They got their passport earlier.  February.

CK:  So you got their passports in February of 2006?

(Note:  These were workers who had come from another factory.  When they left their original factory, they were given their passports back.  The workers who had a contract to work at Silver Planet did not have their passports.)

Workers:  Yes.

CK:  Of the workers, 220 did not have akamas?  Why would you have passports and not akamas?

Workers:  Illegal.  These workers actually worked in another factory and they just closed so they came into this factory so they caught their passport.

CK:  So they were not among those workers?

Translator:  Among the 500 workers, 220 workers already existed in Jordan they worked in another factory.

CK:  Did the rest of the workers have their passports?

Workers:  No, they did not have them.

 

Company Actually Cuts Wages, Continuing to Pay Well Below the Legal Limit:

Workers: In June we got 95 JD for working 10 hours, but the company cut 26 JD for dinner, for food. (Note: 95 JD - 26 JD = 69 JD;  69 JD x exchange rate of 1.41343 = $97.53 per month-28% below the legal minimum wage.)

CK:  And had they subtracted for food before or is this new?

Workers: Now they are saying, for working 8 hours they got 95 JD, but the company cut 26 JD for food.

CK:  And they hadn't cut it in the past, this is new?

Workers: New.  Same.  There is no difference.

CK:  There is no gain.

Workers: They cut our overtime now, too much overtime cut.

CK:  So, what did they cut?

Translator:  He is saying, the lowest wage we got in June.  89 JD, including overtime, including everything we got 89-90 JD, 100, it includes everything.

CK:  100?

Workers:  Maximum.  Maximum.

CK:  And how many hours were they working?

Workers: 14-15 hours.

CK:  They were working 15 hours of overtime a week?  Did they really work, did they work 8 hours, from 8 until 5?

Translator: They start at 7:30.

CK:  When did general duty end, you worked until when, 4:30?

Workers: 4:30, yeah.

CK:  How late did you work overtime?

Workers:  8:30, 10, 11.  And one night a month.  One week, one night.  One night shift in a week.

CK:  Even despite the fact that you worked until 8:30 at night, 10 at night, 11 at night, [inaudible]  only earn 90 JD for everything?

Workers:  Yes.  The workers did not pass our card, the management passed the card.

CK:  How often was it until 8:30 or 11?  What was more common, 20% of the time until 11, 80% to 8:30?

Workers: Maximum time 10.  78%.  Maximum 10.

CK 80% of the time they worked until 10?

Workers: 15% 8:30. 

 

Working a 24-Hour Shift Each Week:

CK:  Did you start getting one day a week off or do you still work on Fridays?

Workers:  Now, we work night shift on Thursday.  So 8, we work until 8 a.m., 9 a.m. on Friday, then we get off.

CK:  So then you get off because you've worked all of Thursday night.  This is still going on or is it all changing?

Workers: Now it is common, every Thursday night we are working.

CK:  So you work straight through until 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. on Friday, so you go straight through from 7:30 in the morning until 8 a.m. or 9 o'clock on Friday morning.  So you work 24, 25 hours.  So in a sense you've won nothing.

*An akama is a work visa.