120 Indians facing exploitation in Jordan return with help from US-based organisation

Worker Rights Consortium, an US-based labour rights monitoring organisation facilitated the return of 120 Indian workers who faced exploitation by their employer from Jordan after TNM highlighted their plight.
Indians stuck in Jordan arriving at the Delhi airport.
Indians stuck in Jordan arriving at the Delhi airport.
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More than 100 Indian workers employed by Aseel Universal Garments manufacturing company in Jordan who were illegally detained after being allegedly denied renewal of work permits and their employer-sponsored visas expired, have returned to India. A total of 120 workers from India had to go without enough food and water and face numerous hardships after the company which employed them refused to pay them salary and other benefits. 

After the company declared bankruptcy in 2023, it refused to pay the workers their social security amount and pending salaries. It also failed to send them back to India. After a TNM report highlighted their plight in December 2023, Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), a US-based Non-profit Organisation, reached out to the Indian workers. They worked in tandem with the International Labourer’s Organisation (ILO) and brought back the workers to India in phases in February 2024 after ensuring that the money due to them was paid. The last set of Indian workers returned on February 15.

One of the workers, Pavendhan Rajavel who hails from Ariyalur, Tamil Nadu, was among the first to return to India on February 2. “Around 80 of us returned on February 2. A volunteer from WRC got in touch with us on December 25 along with an ILO representative in Jordan. Together they ensured that all of us had our documents and helped us receive the money that was due to us. Some passports had expired but they helped sort it out with help from the Embassy,” Pavendhan told TNM. 

A WRC spokesperson told TNM that the owner of Aseel Universal Garments refused to pay the workers. Hence, they identified Calvin Klein (owned by PVH Corp.) as the only brand whose clothes were being produced at the factory, with the production placed there by G-III Apparel Group, a US-based company that is a PVH licensee and bridged the payment. 

“The brands committed to pay the workers in full. The funds were distributed to workers on January 30 and included, in addition to back wages and notice and leave pay, three months’ wages as damages for all of the non-supervisory workers, consistent with a relevant provision of Jordanian labour law,” the company’s statement said.The ILO Workers’ Centre in Jordan played a vital role in assisting the workers and implementing the brands’ commitments, according to WRC.

WRC Executive Director Scott Nova said, “The key factor in achieving a just outcome was the workers’ courage and their refusal to surrender their rights or to allow themselves to be divided. The reporting of The News Minute was also crucial – without it, the WRC would not have been aware of the crisis and could not have interceded.” 

Seven Indian nationals including Thiru Neela Gandan hailing from Chennai, pressed charges against Aseel Universal Garments manufacturing company and a labour court in Jordan ruled in their favour on November 23. The court directed the manufacturing company to settle all dues to the employees, pay the fine amounts for illegally retaining them without extending their permits. The court also held that the employees should be sent back to India. Despite the court’s ruling, the company has not initiated corrective action.

After employees staged multiple protests against the company, operations were shut in December 2023 and the accommodation and food services provided by the employer dropped to substandard levels. Workers alleged that they were surviving on one or two meals a day and didn’t have water and electricity supply on most days. Since their work permits had expired, the employees couldn’t step outside the factory premises since they would be charged with a hefty fine.

On January 8, when the workers held a peaceful protest outside a labour court in Jordan, the police intervened and tried to hold negotiations to disperse the crowd. But, the situation reportedly escalated and the police assaulted the protesters, injuring seven Indian men and more than 50 people from countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Some of the protesters were allegedly shot in their legs and hands and had to be rushed to hospitals.

WRC said that employees from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal have also been paid their dues and have returned to their respective countries.

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