"No objection" deprives workers of their rights


Shereen Mazen, Research and Communications Officer, Tamkeen Fields for Aid , Jordan

Social Security contributes effectively in securing workers as it provides them with an income once they become unable to work or they retire.

 Migrant workers constitute a major group within the Jordanian economy. Social Security covers all working sectors except for those in Agriculture and Domestic Work.

One of the most common sectors where migrants work is the textile sector, especially in factories at the Qualified Industrial Zones; with approximately 50,000 migrants employed at these factories.

The Social Security law does not require a work permit as a condition to register migrant workers as long as s/he works at an institution that is subject to and abides by the law. The mandatory conditions for workers to be included under the provision of the Social Security law include that the worker works in an institution, where:  s/he gets paid for his/her labor, is supervised by that institution, and; the relationship is regular (whether on a daily, piece or shipment basis) as long as it lasts for 16 days or more in any given month. The provisions of the law apply to all workers without any discrimination as to nationality and regardless of the duration or form of contract, as well as the nature and amount of wages. The law also covers workers who are paid on a monthly basis; regardless of the number of working days per month, with the exception of the first month of work to which the principle of sixteen or more working days per month shall apply.

These conditions are also in accordance with the provisions of Article (11) of the Instructions, Conditions and Procedures for the Recruitment and Employment of Non-Jordanian Workers for 2012.

Non- Jordanian workers are also permitted to withdraw their full contributions to Social Security in one instalment within a period of 3 months of the expiry of their work permit, provided that the Ministry of Labor approves the lists of eligible workers, grants them no-objections and stamps their papers approving the collection of their financial dues and afterwards for the worker to leave the country.

In order for migrant workers to receive their Social Security benefits, they apply to receive single-payment compensation after visiting the Ministry of Labor or any of the labor directorates in the Kingdom for evidence proof.

The Social Security Corporation usually pays the one instalment to Migrants without issues when they ask for it the first time regardless of the number of contributions made by the worker. However, if the worker makes the request a second time, then it is stipulated that the number of their contributions shall not be less than 24 months. The only other time when the single payment is made is either in the event of the death of the worker, or then reaching the retirement age set at 60 for males and 55 for females or the workers reaching that age but not qualifying to receive a pension or disability.

The connection between workers receiving their SS contribution with getting an approval from the Ministry of Labor; and the condition set by the MoL that workers need to have a work permit when they receive these payments even though it is not a requirement to register the worker under its umbrella; and the exclusivity of issuing permits only given to employers as workers themselves cannot issue their own permit all constitute obstacles to migrant workers to receive their Social Security contributions. These obstacles are especially apparent in cases where employers have not issued a permit for the worker, yet it is the responsibility of the worker to pay the fines that result from the non-issuance of the permit, and sometimes the amount of the fine is larger than the social security contribution the worker would ultimately receive.

Additionally, the Social Security Corporation has prevented workers from receiving their rights due to the laws it set that requires workers to issue a new work permit if their permit has expired for a period of 90 days or more and they did not travel back to their home country so that they could receive their contributions. The condition represents a particular issue for workers whose passports are withheld by their employers and they could not get them back within this 90-day period.

It is noted from the number of complaints received by Tamkeen Fields for Aid that a number of migrant workers in the Textile sector have been deprived of their Social Security contributions due to the clearance and subsequent closure of the factory they used to work in; or due to the failure of the employer to issue them work permits. An example of that is the case of two workers who were deprived of their contributions despite working at a factory at a Qualified Industrial Zone because the employer did not issue them work permits. Both workers were fortunately able to subsequently benefit from a Government Amnesty.

As we previously mentioned, the regulations and instructions of the Social Security Corporation require that workers obtain a clearance from the Ministry of Labor. However, the Ministry refused to grant it to them despite knowing that it was the factory's responsibility and fault for not issuing the work permits. The Ministry also knew through its system that these workers remained without a permit and yet it refused to grant them their rights.

Another thing that was noted is that the rights of the factory workers were not considered when the factory was liquidated and sold. Such a case is not an individual one or infrequent. In fact, it is a repeated issue that occurred and continues to occur when any factory is closed and the workers are transferred to another factory. Then when the contract is over and workers wish to return to their home country, they go to the Social Security Corporation to collect their contributions only to find that their status is irregular and results in the Ministry of Labor requesting the SSC to not pay the workers until the employers pay the permit fees.

Another case was for a worker from Bangladesh whose employer refused to issue a work permit for the worker despite it being stipulated in the law. Even though it was the employer who refused to issue the permit, it was the worker who had to pay the consequences.

The worker came from Bangladesh to Jordan to work at a company. After the company was closed, the Ministry of Labor transferred him with a group of other workers to another company where he worked till 2008. Then that company also closed and the Ministry transferred them yet again to another one where he worked. During the period he was in Jordan, the worker was law-abiding and reported to the Ministry whenever he faced any issues. At the end of his contract, the worker wanted to return to his country and so wanted to collect his contribution from the SSC. When he went to the Ministry of Labor to get the non- objection necessary to collect the money he was surprised when he was asked to pay fines for the non-issuance of work permits in the years: 2005-2006 / 2006-2007 /2007-2008. Even though the Ministry of Labor knew about the issues of closed factories, the SSC continued to enforce the regulations of the MoL to not pay the workers unless they receive a non- objection from the Ministry, while the MoL insists that workers need to pay the fines of previous years prior to them receiving their dues.

Thus, we stress that it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Labor as the entity responsible for protecting the rights of workers to note that the issuance of work permits is the duty of the employer and the right of the worker. As a result, the worker should not bear the consequences of the non- issuance of permits by being deprived of their rights and financial dues from the SSC.

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