Labor rights advocates seek law changes to ensure free unionist action

Various organizations, experts, and individuals agreed on the need to empower all workers to benefit in an optimal way from negotiations to settle labor disputes, social dialogue, and collective negotiations. (Photo: Envato Elements)
AMMAN — The Coalition Against Violence and Harassment in the Place of Work has called for removing all restrictions that hinder workers' right to form and join trade unions, among other labor-related demands, through amendments to the Labor Law.اضافة اعلان

The demands were made during a meeting held Friday by the coalition member organizations with experts and representatives of international NGOs, who all agreed on the need to empower all workers to benefit in an optimal way from negotiations to settle labor disputes, social dialogue, and collective negotiations, in addition to enabling the administrative bodies of trade unions to draft their own statutes.

The head of the Workers’ House, Hamada Abu Najma, said that several civil society organizations, human rights activists, and trade unionists demanded a review of the provisions of the Labor Law related to union organization, and that all categories of workers subject to the provisions of the Labor Law be included in the right to form unions and collective bargaining groups, including agricultural workers and domestic helpers.

The coalition issued a position paper last week demanding the abolition of the powers granted by the Labor Law to the minister of labor in the 2019 amendments to the code, which included the right to dissolve the administrative bodies of trade unions. The activists said such authority should be limited to the judiciary, as part of measures that protect unions from abuse.

They also include the power to identify professions and trades whose workers have the right to establish unions; the ministry’s approval of the unions’ statues is mandatory.

The paper described these powers as interference in union work affairs and a restriction of the freedom of union action, in violation of the Jordanian Constitution and international labor conventions joined by the Kingdom.

The paper also recommended working out the necessary mechanisms to enable representatives of trade unions to carry out their mandates, provided for in Article 107 of the Labor Law, and moving toward enacting a special law to organize unionist action in the Kingdom that is inclusive of all workers in the private and public sectors, calling on the government to ratify the International Labor Convention No. 87, on freedom of association and safeguarding workers' right to establish representative bodies freely and without any discrimination, and the right of unions to draw up their internal regulations and organize their management, activities and programs without any interference from authorities.

The coalition issued a statement stressing that the recommendations listed in the paper are based on solid foundations enshrined in the Jordanian Constitution and international labor conventions, citing Article 16/2 of the Constitution, which stipulates that “Jordanians have the right to form associations and political parties, provided that their goals are legitimate and their means are peaceful, and their by-laws do not violate the Constitution”.

They also quoted other constitutional articles and international rules governing labor rights, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In response, Lawyer Issa Al-Mazariq, who heads the awareness unit at the National Center for Human Rights (NCHR), said that the center has a "consistent position on workers' right to establish unions, and has issued more than one statement supporting the right to start independent unions and several statements during the Teachers' Association crisis, during which it dealt with complaints filed by teachers… and has demanded in its annual reports that the necessary legislative amendments be carried out to ensure these rights."

Ayman Halaseh, a lawyer and professor in public international law and human rights, also protested the government's powers to decide who has and who does not have the right to establish a union, stressing that relevant constitutional provision underline the concept "freedom" in the right to establish unions and associations.

"This means that this process should be protected from any interference, either from the government or from employers, a matter which is in harmony with the international standards and conventions entered by Jordan."

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