London– The Jordanian factories operated by Sidney Apparels are hotbeds of coronavirus infections due to discriminatory policies and a lack of safety measures, warns ImpACT International for Human Rights Policies.
Sidney Apparel, which produces garments for export to the United States, reports that 85% of its approximately 2,500 workers are infected, according to the London-based think tank. Most of the workers at the plant in Al-Aqaba International Industrial Estate are foreigners who sleep in housing in the Al-Shamiyah area in Al-Aqaba.
According to testimonies collected by ImpACT, the workers who have contracted COVID-19 are Bangladeshi and Indian.Jordanian workers have been granted paid leave since July, while expatriates continued to be required to work without interruption despite the risk.
“We are struggling to obtain sick leave,” a Bangladeshi worker told ImpACT International. “Management has not eased the overcrowding inside the factory. Instead, it forced us to work for several weeks without wages in order for the factory to donate thousands of face masks to the Ministry of Health.”
An Indian worker added: “The overcrowding inside our housing, the poor health care and the overall negligence were major reasons for the rapid spread of the virus among us.”
Nayef Bakhit, chief commissioner of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA), confirmed in a statement that the company’s only Jordanian employees are 14 bus drivers who transport workers from their housing to the factory. All of the drivers tested negative.
Other Jordanian factories have also reported hundreds of coronavirus cases, with workers charging negligence and discrimination against migrant workers. Last month, 600 infections were recorded among migrant workers from Bengal at a garment factory in the Al-Dhalail industrial of the Zarqa governorate.
According to testimonies ImpACT received then from infected workers, they were quarantined inside their houses after they exhibited COVID-19 symptoms. Meanwhile, however, the factory management kept their health status secret. In the days before the infections were discovered, about 1,500 workers in the factory had been terminated.
ImpACT International later received a statement from the Jordanian Ministry of Labor, in which it said that the Zarqa factory had followed “a set of preventive measures against the coronavirus.” Factory management reportedly told the ministry that it routinely sanitizes its facilities and the residential areas for expatriate workers, and that it maintains a specialized staff to monitor occupational safety and health.
With these new outbreaks of coronavirus appearing among migrant workers in Jordan, ImpACT International renews its call to ensure safe working conditions, including reduction of overcrowding in workers’ residential areas. Article 7 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stipulates the right to fair wages, just and healthy work conditions and a decent standard of living for workers and their dependents.