Geneva - The Jordanian government must adhere to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in dealing with workers during the Coronavirus pandemic crisis, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said in a statement today.
A series of recent amendments on the Defence Order may have serious impacts on workers and can pose a threat to their livelihood security and directly undermine their rights under relevant international laws and covenants.
Amendment to the Defence Order No. (6) was issued by the government on May 31, which allows employers to lay off workers in private facilities, while the right to file a complaint is only limited to workers of Jordanian nationality.
The amendment allows employers to reduce workers’ salaries without any humanitarian consideration. It further includes keeping the reduction of 30 percent of workers’ wages from the salaries of May and June, and granting employers the approval to deduct 50 percent of furloughed workers’ salaries who are not assigned any work.
The amendment also allows employers to reduce the monthly wage of their workers by up to 60 percent, however, worker’s wage after the reduction should not slide to less than 150 Jordanian dinars($212) per month. The approval of the Ministry of Labor or the worker is not required in this case.
In addition, the communique also permits employers to task workers, who are not required to report to the workplace or telecommute, with assignments (to be handled remotely) for a maximum of four hours a day and the worker may not be eligible to receive overtime pay for this work.
The amendment can be used by companies and owners of enterprises to arbitrarily dismiss workers on a large scale and slash their salaries without legal basis regardless of their vulnerability to the Coronavirus crisis.
Hundreds of violations against private workers were observed in private sector facilities, as workers had not received their salaries for two months. At the same time companies took advantage of the government Defense Order and suspended workers’ salaries, while others reduced them by 30% and 50%, and large numbers of workers were dismissed under the pretext of Coronavirus repercussions.
The Jordanian government should reconsider its decisions in order to prevent the abuse of workers in line with its obligations under the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights. Namely, Article 7 of said covenant affirmed the state’s obligation to provide fair and satisfactory working conditions for workers and highlighted the state’s responsibility to provide conditions for decent living for workers and their families, and to ensure that a worker enjoys a healthy work environment. Based on this agreement, and other agreements, the Jordanian authorities should cancel its recent unjust decision against workers and put international agreements above internal laws.
The state of emergency that Jordan and other countries are going through do not give them the right to violate workers' legal rights under any justification.
The Jordanian government should bear responsibility of the consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic crisis, especially economically, by preparing clear plans to aid companies and individuals affected by the closure. It should not allow employers to take advantage of the conditions of the Coronavirus pandemic to violate the rights of workers guaranteed locally and internationally.
Jordan is obligated to fulfill its pledges to the International Protection of Wages Agreement of 1949.The agreement stipulates that wages should be paid periodically, and that governments should take measures to expand unemployment benefits to workers who face the problem of losing earning due to partial unemployment. Especially in cases of temporary reduction in working hours and interruption or shortage of earning due to a temporary suspension of work.
Social protections of workers should be reviewed in light of the fact that the coverage of the Social Security Corporation and the civil and military retirement systems does not include more than 60% of the workforce in Jordan, which numbers approximately 2.6 million, according to official estimates.
Official figures show that absolute poverty line in Jordan to be around $635 a month for a standard family of approximately 4.8 individuals. Nearly two-thirds of workers in Jordan (66.1%), according to figures from the Social Security Corporation, receive monthly salaries of $700 or less. The minimum wage was not modified despite a decision to raise it to $367, but the implementation of the decision was suspended until the beginning of 2021.