Legal Empowerment for Decent Work Conditions

Decent Work Conditions

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Legal Empowerment for Decent Work Conditions

“I had to run limping from court to court with my leg broken from a work injury, just so that my employer would pay my wages and I could and feed my children” – Nidal

In its several years of experience in labor law issues, JCLA has found that, while the provision of decent work conditions is a joint responsibility of the state and employers, decent work cannot be achieved without the legal empowerment of workers. For workers, in fact, legal empowerment means to have the tools to claim their rights rather than waving them for lack of knowledge or trust in the system. It means that workers can protect themselves from exploitation, while pressuring employers into fulfilling their obligations. It means lobbying decision-makers to enact laws and regulations ensuring that workers’ rights are not violated nor curbed.


In the case of Nidal, father of three, his foot was crushed by a malfunctioning elevator door at the cleaning company he was employed at. He had to stop working due to his injury. The company not only refused to pay for his treatment or any kind of compensation, but it also withheld two months of Nidal’s salary. His case was referred to JCLA after the start of the legal proceedings. JCLA was able to claim Nidal’s rights, getting the company to pay his salary and compensate him.


“If it weren’t for JCLA, I would have not been able to treat my leg and go back to work. My children would have slept hungry”.

Like most legal issues, labor law problems do not only impact the single individual whose rights are violated. They have repercussions on entire families affecting their financial stability, which often depends on one single breadwinner and source of income. Aware of the dire need to protect the family ecosystem and prevent it from falling further into poverty, JCLA helped over 650 workers claim their rights through its legal services between 2018-2020.


However, all too often workers are afraid to take their case to court for fear of repercussions from their employer, who other than firing them, may make it impossible for them to find work elsewhere. In addition, many non-Jordanian workers without a permit are unable to claim their rights as they are working in violation of the law. Often this vulnerability is exploited by employers to neglect their responsibilities.


Acknowledging this fact, JCLA places a strong focus on awareness-raising activities to educate workers and employers on their rights and duties. Since 2018, JCLA has provided 240 awareness sessions reaching 275 employers and over 6,300 workers from different sectors, such as agriculture, construction, service industries, as well as home-based businesses. JCLA also provides tailored sessions on the protection of women in the workplace. In 2019, JCLA launched a 7-day social media campaign to familiarize the general public on the importance of decent work conditions, as well as workers’ rights and duties, reaching over 700,000 users.


Through my work as a lawyer, I could experience first-hand people’s need for legal awareness. This is what motivated me to work as an awareness trainer at JCLA – Ali Sulibe, Awareness Trainer.

JCLA continues to grow and develop its services, introducing mediation and alternative dispute resolution for labor issues, and designing a centralized system where its specialized labor attorneys consult on all labor issues referred to JCLA.

It is not just about the numbers: it is all about the impact

While numbers play a major role in monitoring the extent of work efforts, they can only provide a limited picture of the real impact and long-term change affecting the lives of many individuals.


In JCLA’s experience, protecting workers’ rights has very concrete and direct consequences on individuals and communities. Protecting workers rights means to combat a culture that tolerates that vulnerable people can be treated with injustice.


Ahmad, a Jordanian worker, was unexpectedly fired from his job as a garbage collector. To avoid legal responsibility for the abrupt arbitrary dismissal, the company lodged 8 complaints without evidence or witnesses against Ahmad. Prior to his dismissal he had been working for a 300 JD paycheck and received no vacation days. Ahmad silently endured his employer’s abuse, threats, false accusations, and verbal harassment.


“They would deny us a breakfast break…They would curse at me and call me ‘slave’ because of my dark skin color. They threatened to file charges against me for things I did not do”.

After seeking assistance from JCLA, Ahmed was awarded compensation and all complaints were dismissed.


For refugee and migrant workers in Jordan, risks are even higher. Those who do not hold a work permit often become accustomed to having their rights violated, surrendering to the bitter reality of an imperfect system. Migrant domestic workers are often subjected to abuse, ranging from having their passport and documents withheld, to verbal abuse and beatings. Refugees are likely to accept harsh work conditions, just so that they can feed their families.


“Being a refugee without a work permit, I never thought that I would be able to claim my rights”.

Mahmoud had gone three months without receiving his wages but was too afraid to seek help. JCLA assists migrant workers not only to rectify their legal status, but also by informing them that not having a permit does not automatically deprive them of claiming their rights. JCLA engages in several awareness campaigns targeting workers from different sectors, tailoring its messages to their specific needs and challenges.


Through its intervention, JCLA restores the dignity of abused workers, creating a society that is empowered and able to hold both the state and employers accountable. At JCLA, we work towards the change that we want to see, in the effort to reach justice for all.

Together, we help shape justice

At JCLA, we believe that real change cannot be achieved by any organization alone. For this reason, JCLA has been working together with its partners in civil society for more than ten years, not only by leveraging its network when leading access to justice campaigns, but also offering its expertise to strengthen civil society efforts from a legal perspective.


With the aim to enhance work conditions in Jordan, JCLA has greatly invested in building community-driven capacity to promote decent work conditions. One of its initiatives consists in placing JCLA Community Facilitators (CFs) at local CBOs across the country, to build their capacity in regard to labor law issues. CFs leverage the CBOs’ outreach to identify labor rights violations, raise awareness and refer cases to lawyers, while empowering the CBOs themselves to take over and continue CFs’ role.


Through its active partnership with several NGOs targeting workers, JCLA is aware of their risks and challenges. This led to launching the campaign “Can you see them?”, raising awareness on human trafficking. The campaign aimed to empower domestic workers, providing them with the tools to reach out for help if needed.


JCLA continues to expand its partnership network, in the effort to make justice available, reachable and accessible to all workers.

Placing people’s needs at the top of the policy agenda

JCLA actively engages with justice stakeholders to propose sustainable solutions to the challenges faced by workers in Jordan. Its involvement ranges from presenting policy papers, to holding workshops and collaborative meetings with representatives of government agencies and labor unions.


Among its efforts, JCLA’s contribution to the agriculture sector is especially noteworthy. In judicial practice, in fact, agriculture workers’ claims do not fall under the Labor Law, but under a separate bylaw, which however is not enacted. JCLA’s approach to tackle this issue is not limited to presenting policy and legislative recommendations, but it also relies on strategic litigation. By arguing in court that agriculture claims can be regulated by the Labor Law, JCLA creates legal precedents to protect and claim workers’ rights, until the bylaw is issued.


Further, JCLA has played a key role for migrant workers during the COVID-19 lockdown. The Ministry of Labor, in fact, issued a decision that all labor-related fines and fees for migrant workers would be waived, so that they could travel to their home country without fearing to be arrested. JCLA assisted over 300 workers in completing their procedures, securing a safe return home for women and men who had not been able to go back to their families in years.


A committed defender of the rights of the vulnerable, JCLA ensures that justice stakeholders take concrete action towards the achievement of decent work in Jordan.