Claims to protect the right of migrant workers to form trade unions on their international day
On the occasion of the international Migrants Day (December 18th), the National Campaign for an Alternative labor Migration Model issued a statement to demand protections for worker rights to freedom of association (FoA) and collective bargaining agreements (CBA). The Campaign has previously issued similar statements demanding the inclusion of all migrant workers in social security, and protecting their freedom of movement, financial independence, and protection against economic coercion. In its recent statement, the campaign called for empowering migrant workers to claim their FoA and CBA rights as enshrined in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work that all countries must adhere to irrespective of their ratification status with regards to relevant ILO conventions.
The campaign further stressed that denying the migrant workers their right to organize can have one interpretation only – they are not officially recognized as workers. This is a form of discrimination against them based on nationality, denying them thus their collective bargaining rights and failure as a result to improve their situation and put an end to the Kafala system violations; denying them these rights would also prevent them from access to justice and self-determination, where informal workers, including migrant workers, continue to be the more vulnerable segment. Excluding them from the social dialogue efforts undermines the foundations of the tripartite process that cannot be best served except through giving the democratically elected labor representatives a seat at the table with the government and employers.
In statement, the Campaign demanded the following with regards to the migrant workers’ rights to the freedom of association and collective bargaining
- Abolishing paragraph (e) of article 98 of the Jordanian Labor Code that mandates for the Minister of Labor to classify economic industries and activities that are allowed to organize and establish trade unions. This is yet another form of discrimination against workers across the different sectors in addition to the fact that it is a violation of the freedom of association; it also denies the majority of workforce in Jordan, including migrant workers, their right to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
- Within the same context, the campaign also called for repeal of the Minister’s decision to classify sectors that can organize – currently 17 sectors only; the Minister’s decision also prevents having multiple labor representation in the same sector, leaving thus most workers in Jordan outside the purview of trade unions as the most recent trade union established in the 1970s!
- Given the first two demands, the campaign expressed its absolute rejection of the recent amendment to the classification system, where domestic work was merged with the public services sectors, and agriculture was merged with the food industries sector. Such a change is deemed as a vicious encroachment on the right of domestic and agricultural workers to organize; it also undermines the very foundations of independent labor organizing. A case in point is the experience of the agricultural workers in Jordan whose application to establish an independent union was denied twice by the government. These workers did not ask to be merged with any of the other 17 sectors that are allowed to organize. The campaign therefore demands that agricultural and domestic workers be allowed to exercise their rights to establish their independent trade unions and elect their own leaders from within their own sectors.
- Amend paragraph (d) of article 98 of the Labor Code to allow migrant workers to establish their own trade unions rather than just allowing to join other established ones only. Certain sectors rely primarily on migrant workers, including domestic work; it is therefore the right of migrant workers to launch their own trade unions in the sectors they work in rather than having to wait for nationals to launch the union and then be able to join them.
- The campaign demands that trade unions, including the ones with migrant membership, to amend their own bylaws to provide for the possibility of electing migrant workers to leadership council positions; forming migrant worker committees under their trade unions would not suffice to simply call such unions as otherwise democratic and inclusive.
- The campaign demands that the Government of Jordan ratifies ILO convention 87 on the freedom of association and protection of the right to organize – noting that C87 is a key convention that is binding to all states irrespective of their ratification status. Likewise, the campaign calls for respect of C98 articles on FoA and CBA – a convention that Jordan has ratified as it protects against discrimination and retaliation when organizing or joining a trade union in addition to ensuring trade unions independence and refraining from intervening in their affairs.
- The campaign also demands that the GoJ ratifies C189 on Decent work for domestic workers, ensuring their right to organize; the campaign finds that failure to ratify this convention 11 years after being issued is simply unjustifiable.
- The campaign also demands the ratification of C190 to end violence and harassment in the world of work that emphasizes that combating violence and harassment in the world of work cannot be delivered without adhering to the ILO principles on FoA, CBA, non-discrimination, eradication of all forms of forced labor, and eradication of child labor and discrimination.
The National Campaign for an Alternative Migration Model includes CSOs, labor activists, and migrant workers; it calls for abolishing the Kafala system and advocates for an alternative migration model that is based on international human and labor rights standards. The campaign further calls for the eradication of all modalities of Kafala across the Jordanian laws, administrative procedures, and labor relations across sectors.
Members of the campaign regard the Kafala system to be a form of modern slavery that contradicts the values and principles Jordan upholds as well as the international human rights conventions and compacts it has ratified. It also contradicts the key ILO principles related to FoA, CBA, non-discrimination in labor and professions, eradication of forced and child labor. The campaign sees that the Kafala system inherently restricts basic human rights, including the rights to movement, assembly, organize, access to services and access to justice. It also renders workers vulnerable and at risk of suffering various forms of violence, verbal, physical, and psychological harassment and abuse, in addition to the risk of economic exploitation; more importantly, the Kafala system also excludes migrant workers from social security and protection across the various sectors they work in with additional risks of abuse and marginalization based on nationality, residency status, gender and other factors.
The campaign calls for an alternative migration model that respects the rights of migrant workers to movement, and self-determination freely, and liberates them from economic coercion, while ensuring their equal rights, protection against all forms of discrimination, access to services and justice, and ability to engage in social dialogue.