By Jalal Abu Saleh
Amman – Unions, and labor and civil society organizations working to help worker enjoy their labor rights are usually more vocal on Labor Day, marked every year on May 1; now, in view of the protracted COVID-19 crisis, which hit hard the most marginalized, who lost their sources of income and work opportunities, these calls assumed even more urgency.
Many day laborers and those working in the informal sector and small businesses are deprived of most social protection services and work as employers lost their businesses and revenues.
In Zarqa’s Al-Azraq camp for refugees, a 39-year-old Syrian refugee woman lost her job at the establishment she used to work at because of the COVID-19 and of the full lockdowns. Moreover, she is not bound to receive any compensation.
Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) raised this case with the relevant authorities to help her and her co-workers who were asking to be paid JD220, last year’s April wage that the employer refused to pay due to the deteriorating state of his business, following the COVID-19 crisis.
ARDD, following various legal procedures, has provided several services for these workers, including filing their cases with the court and helping them submit their complaints to the Ministry of Labor. Mediation with the employer resulted in the cases being dropped and the matter solved. The Ministry of Labor obliged the employer to pay last April wage to 30 workers who had been working for his establishment for more than three months (in view of the 3-month probationary period requirement).
Seven workers were not eligible for payment since they had stopped working during the probation period. Two of the seven asked for maternity leave compensation and their files were submitted to the Social Security Department for compensation.
Both workers and employers were negatively affected, but the legal procedures and the legal mediation ensured that everybody’s rights were respected. The legal mediation ensured the employer’s cooperation and a successful resolution of the matter.
Throughout last year and the first quarter of this year, ARDD provided legal services to 27,000 individuals (39% females and 61% males)’ 44% of the services were provided for Jordanians and 56% for non-Jordanians, the majority of them asylum seekers and immigrants.
The services vary in kind and include consultations, legal mediation, and labor rights cases for both Jordanians and non-Jordanians. Forty-eight percent of the cases dealt with by ARDD were related to the defense orders issued during 2020 and concerning both employers and employees, 25% concerning labor rights claims (wages, work injuries, overtime, etc.), 18% were about arbitrary work termination and 9% were complaints submitted to the Ministry of Labor.
ARDD is the official provider of legal consultations to the Jordan Labor Watch of The Phenix Center; so far, it has provided 127 consultations to Jordanians, 24% of whom were employers and 76% employees; of these, 31% were females and 69% males.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not the only threat to workers; many other challenges face them, such as the decrease in wages, rights violations, hard work conditions and lack of social protection. Therefore, support for workers and mechanisms that ensure their legal protection and social security are strongly needed.