Thank you very much for the opportunity to testify about labour rights in Jordan.
When the institute began its work in Jordan, we discovered that over the course of the five years from 2001 until 2006, the United States-Jordan free trade agreement had descended into human trafficking of guest workers, who were stripped of their passports, held under conditions of indentured servitude, and forced to work gruelling hours while being cheated of their wages.
After our report was released, there were some minor improvements. For one thing, many of the guest workers received their passports back again.
Other than that, violations continue. I would like to bring you up to date on one of those violations, which is going on right now, today.
We just released this report yesterday. It is on a factory called Rich Pine, in the Cyber City Industrial Park. It makes clothing for Liz Claiborne and J.C. Penney and Macy's and Kohl's. Its Chinese and Bangladeshi guest workers are working 14 hours a day, seven days a week. They are at the factory 96 hours a week. That's just the norm. They have had only one day off in the last 120 days, in the last four months. The workers are being paid about 70¢ an hour, which appears to be.... It is below the minimum wage in Jordan, which is 74.5¢.
The workers have no rights whatsoever. It's a real sweatshop. Workers are housed in primitive dormitories. The Chinese workers and Bangladeshi workers have no voice. In the dormitories during wintertime, there is not sufficient heat or hot water. Their bathing facilities are a bucket of water; they use a cup and splash water on themselves. The workers are treated with no rights whatsoever.
I would say in that Rich Pine factory, every single labour right under Jordanian law and under the U.S. free trade agreement is being blatantly violated in broad daylight.
I want to make just two other comments.
We know that the U.S.-Jordan free trade agreement was the best free trade agreement ever negotiated by the United States, because it had the core labour rights at the centre of the free trade agreement: the freedom of association, the right to organize and to bargain collectively. What turns out is that the Jordanian government amended the free trade zone.
Do you know what the Jordanian government did? They said that guest workers would have to be employed in the private sector for five years before they could organize a union; the only problem is that guest workers get three-year contracts.
Then, to make it worse, the Jordanian government said that if the guest workers want to organize, they will have to go to their home countries and they'll have to pass legislation, in a country like China, giving the Chinese workers in Jordan the right to have a union.
In other words, the right to organize and to bargain collectively is being blocked by the Jordanian government. We have the documents to prove this, the cables that we received, so I'm very skeptical about the Government of Jordan living up to its rights under Jordanian law and also under the U.S. free trade agreement.
We know right now, 10 years into the free trade agreement, that guest workers do not have the right to organize a union and they do not have the right to collective bargaining under these roadblocks the government has thrown up. Again, this has come out in U.S. government documents.
I want to talk finally and briefly about the Classic factory in Jordan. It's the largest factory in Jordan. There are 5,000 workers from Egypt, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and China.
They have $125 million of exports to the U.S., most of it Walmart and Hanes. The workers are working 14, 15 hours a day. Maybe they get two Fridays off a month. The workers are slapped, screamed at. When shipments have to go out, they'll work 18-and-a-half-hour shifts.
But that's the least of it. What we have discovered is that at the Classic factory, Jordan's largest factory, there are scores and scores of young women guest workers who have been raped at the Classic factory.
I'll tell you how we found out about this. We were in Jordan in December of 2010. Young women came to us and gave us disks. They gave us tapes that they had made themselves with their cellphones testifying about the rapes, pleading that we help them, pleading that we stop the rapes.
A young woman, Kamala, told us about the men—it was Anil Santha in this case, but there was also Priyantha and these other people—that:
I was molested in every way.... That man tortured me. He took a lot of sexual advantages from me…I had to fulfill everything he desired because I was placed in an extremely vulnerable situation and intimidated… My whole body is in pain…. I cannot face my mother and father. I am destroyed. I cannot even change clothes before my mother because Priyantha has destroyed me. I have teeth marks all over my body.
She goes on to say that she was so horrified and humiliated, she would have committed suicide:
I cannot take my own life because I am extremely poor. I am the only one to take care of my parents. This is why I came here [to Jordan].
This young woman from Sri Lanka came to this Classic factory and was raped repeatedly.
It goes on and on. It's in our report. It's in our updates.
We rescued a young Bangladeshi girl, Nazma, in June of 2011. They took her out of the factory and told her she was going to another factory. She was frightened, as she'd just gotten there. She was working at one of the Classic factories; there are five different Classic factories.
When a supervisor came over and told her she had to go to another factory, she went outside and got in the car with the general manager of the factory, Anil Santha, and they drove. They parked in front of a house. She was confused. It wasn't a factory. She was getting scared. They opened the door, they walked in, and she thought maybe there was a factory through the next door. Of course there wasn't. He threw her on a bed and he raped her. He tore her dress and bit her shoulder. He did this in March of 2011. In May of 2011, he raped her twice again, biting her shoulder and leaving a big black and blue mark.
We're right now involved in additional rape victims' testimonies. We will not let this case go away.
In 2010 the workers went on strike: 2,500 Sri Lankan and Indian workers went on strike. They were tear-gassed and beaten by the police. The demand was to get rid of the general manager, Anil Santha, who was raping the women.
Everybody knows about this. The one reason they can get away with it is that Muslim women cannot talk about being raped without having their husband leave them, their children taken away, or their being ostracized.
I see very big problems in Jordan and the lack of respect of human and women's rights.