The industrial park in Jordan where the Vietnamese workers went on strike.
APRIL 17, 2008: Of the 176 young women who went on strike for their rights at the W&D Apparel factory, 155 have returned to Vietnam. These returnees from Jordan are not considered victims of human trafficking and therefore have not received assistance under Vietnam’s law on assisting victims of trafficking in women and children. The returnees have not received assistance from IOM either. The labor export companies have not reimbursed them for their fees and deposits. Company agents have floated the idea that workers would receive reimbursement minus deductions for the return plane ticket and room and board in Jordan during the strike. According to the returnees, there won’t be much money left after such deductions.
The organization responsible for the export of most Vietnamese workers to Jordan, the Shoe & Leather Corp.’s Training and Labor Export Center, has closed down. La Thanh Khuong, the woman who ran the center, is rumored to be on “sabbatical” overseas for six months.
Many workers, including 56 from a neighboring clothing plant, Men Chen, plan to show up at the Ministry of Labor in Hanoi next week to demand government intervention. The same two labor export companies involved in the W&D Apparel case (Shoe & Leather Corp and V-COALIMEX) exported workers to Men Chen. There has been no sign of any government action against these companies. Company agents continue to contact workers and put pressure on them (and their parents) not to stir things up.
The handful of workers identified as strike leaders have been targeted by the Public Security Police for monitoring and investigation. These strike leaders have been accused by the government of being “extremist elements” that collaborate with anti-government forces overseas to undermine Vietnam’s labor export policy and to sabotage Vietnam’s relationship with Jordan. In its issue of March 24, the official publication of the Ministry of Public Security stated that the policy of the governments of Vietnam and Jordan was to “decisively deport to Vietnam persons engaged in extremist activities (i.e., the strike leaders).” One returnee reports that she has been trailed by two plainclothes public security agents at all times.
As it turns out, 20, not 10, of the original strikers are still in Jordan. They had agreed to return to work because of the slim prospect of repatriation at the time, and because of threats coming from a visiting Vietnamese government delegation. However, after the repatriation of the first group of workers on March 16, these 20 workers again requested to go home. Their requests have remained unanswered. One of these workers is in her fourth month of pregnancy and desperately needs to go home. All 20 workers have been sent back to work, from 7:30am to 10:30pm, and are being paid only $120/month. Recently, an inspector, probably from the Jordanian Department of Labor, made a site visit to the plant. The workers were instructed to report that they worked only till 7:30pm.
Please keep up the pressure on W&D Apparel by writing to the clothing retailers who buy from them (see the “What Can I Do to Help?” section above).