Collective Bargaining in Jordan’s Ready Made Garment Sector

Noor Jihan first left her country
to look for work at age 13. Over the years, she has been employed
as a domestic worker and in several factories around the world. A year ago, at age 24, Noor came
to work in this factory in Irbid. Her employer offers her room
and board, so she can send most
of her US$150 monthly wage to her family in Bangladesh. Noor is part of a
40,000 migrant workforce in Jordan’s Qualifying Industrial Zone,
making ready-made clothing for some of the world’s
leading consumer brands. Since it was established in 1996, the sector was long plagued
with poor working and living conditions. Weak dialogue mechanisms
between workers and their employers resulted in several strikes, some of which hit multiple factories
and lasted for up to a month. But the situation of workers
has improved in recent years. Since 2008, Better Work Jordan
has worked closely with its partners — the Ministry of Labour, employers, the garment union
and the international brands — to improve compliance with Jordan’s
laws and international labour standards. This culminated in a collective
bargaining agreement signed in May 2013 between two apparel employers’
associations and Jordan’s garment union. The agreement will help tens
of thousands of workers — both migrants and Jordanians — by improving conditions in the factories
and allowing for better representation. “The CBA is the latest step in a process
of enhancing social dialogue between workers and their employers
that has been going on for a number of years now. It’s a sectorial CBA, meaning that covers all employers
and all workers in the sector. ” Some of the most important
provisions of the agreement focus on: 1. Regulating working hours, wages and bonuses 2. Granting union access to factories
3. Providing an environment more conducive to social dialogue
between workers and employers 4.  Improving occupational health
and safety both at factories and dormitories 5. Committing to treat all workers equally Garment sector exports reached
a record high in 2012 and generated 1.2 billion U.S dollars. Factory owners are hopeful that the collective bargaining agreement
will enable the sector to grow even further. Better Work Jordan supported the development of the
Collective Bargaining Agreement by offering training
on collective bargaining to the garment union and
employers prior to negotiations and by reviewing the draft agreement
to ensure consistency with the ILO’s core labour standards. “As important as this agreement is, it’s just a piece of paper and
its value wont be seen until it extends and impacts
on the workforce and the relationship between
the employers and workers throughout the sector. So if you look at the agreement
it calls for the creation of committees at the factory level
and also of the sectorial level to resolve both language
interpretations of the contract and to work together
to implement the contract. The ILO and Better Work Jordan
will assist in this process by bringing in experts to work
with both employers and Unions on contract administration. Now you have this contract,
how do you make it work?”

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