Roundtable Participants call on the Ministry of Labour to protect agricultural workers

Tamkeen – In the course of a roundtable organised by Tamkeen Fields for Aid, participants called on the Ministry of Labor to expedite the issuance of a system for workers in the agriculture sector that will effectively protect and guarantee the rights of workers on one hand and the employers on the other. They added that the absence of a system thus far has contributed to the emergence of many of the challenges and violations faced by workers in terms of working conditions or their rights.

This was during a roundtable entitled “Working Conditions of Women in the Agriculture Sector: Realities, Opportunities and Challenges”, which was conducted to discuss the conditions in which workers in the agricultural sector work in terms of wages and working hours, getting annual and sick leaves, inclusion in the Social Security System, and other basic labour rights that are covered by Jordanian labour legislation; in addition to providing a closer look at the current numbers of workers in that sector.

The roundtable was attended by the Ministry of Labour, the Economic and Social Council, a number of female and male workers and employers, in addition to specialists and labour activists in the agricultural sector.

A number of topics were discussed from the conditions of women workers in the sector in light of the increase in their numbers due to the reluctance of Jordanian male youth to work in it as well as the difficult living conditions of thousands of families living in the Jordan Valley; to the challenges faced by both the workers and the employers including the increase in the costs of production, the non-sale of products, and the impact of weather on crops. Furthermore, participants discussed the role of the Ministry of Labour in term of the follow-up and handling of issues faced by the sector and the challenges faced by labour inspectors in this sector.

In terms of discussions, the participants agreed that there are many violations being committed against women working in the agricultural sector; the most important of which being the low wages, which are often paid on a daily basis and range from 1 JD to 1 JD and a half, with the monthly income of the majority of workers not exceeding 300 JD. Another financial issue is the lack of stable or high income sources for female workers.

In addition, there is a lack of occupational safety and health conditions for the workers in this sector, as employers do not provide them with the suitable clothing, shoes or gloves that would protect them from the harsh working conditions.

There are also no suitable means of transportation for workers to and from their workplaces, especially ones that are suited with the difficult weather conditions in the areas of the Jordan Valley. Workers are often transported by unsafe means of transport such as Pick Ups, which are originally intended for the transportation of tools and agricultural materials.

The workers in this sector are not provided with any kind of insurance, especially social security and health insurance. This is an extremely serious problem given the seriousness of the work and the high probability of occupational accidents and injuries. Consequently, workers have to pay for the costs and expenses of their treatment in cases of such incidents. Employers justified this fact by referencing the high financial cost and the insufficiency of the income after the end of the agricultural season to cover and include workers in the social security and health insurance.

The participants pointed out that it is very difficult to obtain accurate and up-to-date information on the numbers of workers in the agricultural sector, whether male of female; which contributes to the increase in violations and lack of access to them. However, and according to the data of the Jordan Valley Agriculture Directorate, the number of workers on farms exceeds 10,000 workers.

Participants recommended working on the provision of detailed data and information on the agricultural sector to assist in the development of agricultural plans, programs and policies; as well as the implementation of labour legislation, especially those focused on working conditions, and the inclusion of workers in social protection programs. The data will also help in the preparation of a draft data system on employment opportunities in the agricultural sector for job seekers and the identification of places that has vacancies. Additionally, particular data should be available for the numbers of workers in the agricultural sector, especially women, which will help identify where they work are in order to work on raising their awareness of their rights.
It should be noted that the region of the Jordan Valley is one of the twenty pockets of poverty in the Kingdom and has high unemployment rate, especially among girls according to social surveys carried out by the social development departments in Direla and the southern Shona in 2015. According to the survey, nearly 25% of the population receive national aid salaries; while 83% of the population of that are under the poverty line compared with 50.8% in the kingdom as a whole according to the study of the social and economic reality of the Jordan Valley for the years 2012-2014. The data also showed that the unemployment rate in the Jordan Valley is very high, and it is the highest in the Kingdom.

It is also noteworthy that the labour law provides for the inclusion of agricultural workers and domestic workers through regulations issued for this purpose. However, while a system for domestic workers have been developed, no system for agricultural workers has been issued as of yet.