[Below is the latest from the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights on Jordan.]
Sexual Predators and Serial Rapists Run Wild at Wal-Mart Supplier in Jordan: Young women workers raped, tortured and beaten at the Classic Factory
- According to witnesses who work at Classic Fashion, scores of young Sri Lankan women sewing clothing for Wal-Mart and Hanes have suffered routine sexual abuse and repeated rapes, and in some cases even torture. One young rape victim at the Classic factory in Jordan told us her assailant, a manager, bit her, leaving scars all over her body. Women who become pregnant are forcibly deported and returned to Sri Lanka. Women who refuse the sexual advances of Classic‘s managers are also beaten and deported.
- Classic, the largest garment export factory in Jordan, sews clothing for Wal-Mart, Hanes, Kohl‘s, Target and Macy‘s. The garments enter the U.S. duty-free under the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement.
- On the weekly holiday, the alleged serial rapist general manager, Anil Santha, sends a van to bring four or five young women to his hotel, where he abuses them. The lives of the young Sri Lankan rape victims are completely shattered, as in their culture, virginity is highly prized and critical for a good marriage.
- In October 2010, 2,400 Sri Lankan and Indian workers went on strike demanding the removal of the alleged rapist, Anil. Classic‘s owner, Sanal Kumar, sent Anil away, but he returned after one month.
- Through the Institute/National Labor Committee‘s reports, the Ministry of Labor has been made aware of the sexual abuse as early as 2007, but has done nothing.
- The standard shift at Classic is 13 hours a day, six and seven days a week, with some 18 ½ hour shifts before the clothing must be shipped to the U.S. According to witness testimonies, workers are routinely cursed at, hit and shortchanged of their wages for failing to reach their mandatory production goals. To press the women to work faster, managers grope and fondle them.
- The workers—who are from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Egypt, earn a take-home wage of just 61 cents an hour.
- The workers are housed in primitive dorms lacking heat or hot water, but which are infested with bed bugs. The women have extremely limited freedom of movement and are allowed to leave the factory
compound just one day a week for six hours. When they are forced to work through their weekly holiday, they may be allowed out just once or twice a month.
- The minimal efforts of Wal-Mart, Hanes and the other labels to monitor factory conditions at Classic have failed completely. Workers are threatened by management and forced to say that conditions are good.
- We are strongly urging representatives of the labels to join us in Jordan on Friday, June 17 for a large meeting with the Classic workers.
- It is our intention, along with the United Steelworkers and our women‘s rights colleagues in Sri Lanka, to rescue the women who have been victimized and return them safely home to their families. We expect Wal-Mart, Hanes and the other labels to pay significant compensation to the rape victims to restore some dignity to their lives. This is the least they can do.
- The U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement has also failed over the last ten years to protect the basic rights of the 30,000 foreign guest workers sewing garments for export to the U.S.
- One Bangladeshi worker recently deported from the Classic factory told us today that, ―all the workers of Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh…everybody will testify that Anil raped the Sri Lankan women. Everybody knows. In a safe place, the workers will testify.
. . .
Classic Fashion Apparel
Classic Fashion Apparel Industry, Ltd. Co.
Mr. K. S. Sanal Kumar (India) Owner, Chairman and Managing Director
Al-Hassan Industrial Estate
There are five separate Classic factories in the Al Hassan Industrial Estate: Classic I, Classic II, Classic III, and Classic IV and V, which are housed in the same building.
Labels produced at the Classic Group of Factories are: Danskin Now (Wal-Mart), Champion (Hanes for Target), Style & Co (Macy‘s), and Sonoma (Kohl‘s). An order for the large food service company, Sodexo, had just been completed at Classic. Wal-Mart accounts for the largest proportion of production at Classic.
Classic opened its first garment factory in Jordan in 2003, with a workforce of just 300 guest workers and $2 million in sales for the year. Over the next seven years, Classic grew at an almost impossible pace. By the end of 2010, Classic‘s workforce had surged to over 4,800—a sixteen- fold increase from the 300 workers in 2003 and the vast majority of them poor women guest workers from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India. During the same period, from 2003 to 2010, Classic‘s sales grew by 60 fold, from $2 million in 2003 to $120 million at the end of 2010. Running a sweatshop under the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement, employing young women guest workers who are stripped of their rights, is evidently very profitable.
Today, Classic Fashion is the largest garment exporter in Jordan, producing over 100,000 garments a day and accounting for over 15 percent of total exports even in 2009. Eighty-five percent of Classic‘s employees are guest workers.
Classic Fashion has five factories in the Al-Hassan Industrial Estate along with two other plants, Jerash in the Al-Tajamouat Industrial Estate and the Casual Wear factory in the Ad Dulayl Industrial Park.
Classic Fashion is Indian-owned. There is a Classic Fashion Apparel factory located in the Chennai area of India, and Classic has another factory, Mechanical Ing at Classic Fashion Apparel in Egypt.
By any serious and objective account, the Classic Group of factories in Jordan would surely be categorized as illegal sweatshops. Yet, what seems incomprehensible, the Jordanian Ministry of Labor has awarded the Classic Group of factories "Golden List" status for the last 4 ¾ years! Being on the "Golden List" means these factories are in full compliance with all local Jordanian laws as well as with the labor rights provisions in the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement. Supposedly, only factories "complying with international/local social and ethical compliance requirements" can achieve "Golden List" status.
A monitoring group called "Better Work Jordan," which is almost exclusively funded by the U.S. Government, has also been inspecting the Classic Group of factories for the last two years. Moreover:
"Better Work Jordan certifies Classic Fashion for producing garments to major retailers and brands like Wal-Mart, Kohl‟s, Hanesbrands, Jones Apparel, Sears, Lands End, to name a few."- Social Accountability and Sustainability, Awards and recognitions, Classic Fashion website.
The sad reality at the Classic Group of factories is one of serial rapists and sexual predators running wild, abusing and torturing scores of young women guest workers, especially those from Sri Lanka. Workers are routinely beaten and forced to work overtime while being shortchanged of their legal wages. The dorms lack heat and hot water, but have an abundance of bed bugs. Freedom of movement is strictly curtailed for women workers. Any worker asking for her basic rights will be forcibly deported on false charges. The 4,800 foreign guest workers at the Classic Group of factories in Jordan are trapped in a hell hole with no exit and nowhere to turn for help.
Under the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement, Jordan‘s garment exports to the U.S. increased by 34.4 percent in 2010, reaching $1.06 billion, compared to $748 million in 2009.
There are over 30,000 poor, mostly young women, foreign guest workers toiling in Jordan‘s largely foreign-owned garment factories sewing clothing for export to the United States. Under the Free Trade Agreement, those garments enter the U.S. duty-free.
The guest workers are from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, China, Nepal and Egypt. They earn less than three-quarters the wage of Jordanian garment workers, who account for only 15 to 25 percent of the total garment workforce. Jordanians earn $1.02 an hour while the foreign guest workers take home 74½ cents an hour. The Jordanians work eight hours a day, while the guest workers toil an average of 12 hours a day.
[Click here to read the full report.]