Jordan Labor Conditions Improving but Problems Persist

More than a year and a half after the National Labor Committee detailed poor working conditions in Jordanian apparel factories, the watchdog group, while...

WASHINGTON — More than a year and a half after the National Labor Committee detailed poor working conditions in Jordanian apparel factories, the watchdog group, while acknowledging progress in the country, continues to find some abuses.

On Monday, the New York-based NLC said workers at the Classic Fashion Apparel Industry factory in Al Hassan Industrial City were set to return to work, at least on an interim basis, after striking over wages that they claimed were half of what was legally due them. The NLC, which first publicized the case last month, also said the workers, who made goods for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Gap Inc., among others, toiled in poor conditions.

Wal-Mart, which generally contracts out its apparel production, did not respond to a request for comment. A Gap spokeswoman said the company had identified several issues and is working to resolve them.

In November, the NLC charged that workers at the D.K. Garments factory, which produced bikinis and underwear for Victoria's Secret, toiled in poor conditions and were threatened with forced deportation after striking to protest the imprisonment of six co-workers. A spokeswoman for Limited Brands Inc., which owns Victoria's Secret, said the company moved immediately to "identify and address areas of concern."

Charles Kernaghan, executive director of the NLC, agreed the Limited has been "quite insistent on getting the workers back wages for overtime."

The NLC's recent allegations came in the wake of a May 2006 investigation that found working conditions there were generally below what was allowed by Jordanian law and prompted a review by Jordanian and U.S. authorities.

Jordanian officials mobilized, putting together a plan calling for 120 new labor inspectors, higher pay, a hotline workers could call to register complaints in their native languages and a new monitoring program based on a model successfully employed in Cambodia. The country's factory inspection apparatus in Jordan remains a work in progress.

"They're still running with perhaps an inadequate budget," said Kernaghan. "There are too many mistakes in their research. I don't find it credible anymore. We're getting appeals from Jordan, several a week now. This thing isn't working like it was supposed to work."

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