Training of labour inspectors on forced labour and human trafficking

As part of its campaign to strengthen labour standards in Qualified Industrialised Zones (QIZ), the Jordanian Ministry of Labour appointed 30 new labour inspectors in 2008. The workshop was organised by the Ministry of Labour, in cooperation with the ILO, to sensitize these newly appointed labour inspectors on issues of trafficking and forced labour.

Background to the workshop

As part of its campaign to strengthen labour standards in Qualified Industrialised Zones (QIZ), the Jordanian Ministry of Labour appointed 30 new labour inspectors in 2008. The workshop was organised by the Ministry of Labour, in cooperation with the ILO, to sensitize these newly appointed labour inspectors on issues of trafficking and forced labour. About half of the participants were women. Most participants had a background in law, public administration or engineering. The workshop took place after some initial theoretical training and field missions. Dr. Adnan Raba'ia, Director of the Inspectors Training Center, opened the workshop and underlined the commitment of the Ministry of Labour to improved protection of labour standards.

Training modules and discussions

The workshop was the first opportunity to launch and use the ILO Handbook for labour inspectors on forced labour and human trafficking in Jordan. The training course was based on a three-day model suggested in the handbook, with some modifications. The active involvement of a representative of the French Office against Illegal Work, combining inspection and policing tasks, was particularly useful. Group discussions and case analysis also served to enhance the practical relevance of the workshop.

The first day was dedicated to an introduction of international legal concepts, indicators of forced labour and a discussion of national laws and policies. It also helped to clarify the mandate of labour inspectors with regard to forced labour and trafficking. The presentations of the working groups and the ILO national project assistant are summarized below:

Relevant sections of the Labour Code are those referring to illegal work, the prohibition of child labour as well as regulations on private employment agencies, overtime and wage payments. The Labour Code has recently been revised to extend coverage to agriculture and domestic work.

Provisions of the Criminal Code cover offences relevant to forced labour such as violence, including sexual violence, threats and restriction of movement.

Though Jordan has no migration law as such, there is a law on passports that is relevant to the issue of trafficking. It includes regulations on migrant workers and prohibits withholding of documents and the illegal procurement of passports.

During the plenary discussion, participants asked many questions pertaining to the boundaries between forced labour and sub-standard working conditions, the linkages between different sources of law and the role of labour inspectors. A national law on trafficking is currently under preparation, which provides an opportunity to develop a comprehensive approach to the identification and prosecution of offenders.

The second day started with a presentation of the French expert, Mr. Francois Chambre, on laws and institutional structures in France. Based on a decree issued in April 2008, the Office against Illegal Work reports directly to the Premier Minister. It involves mixed inspection teams consisting of labour inspectors and the gendarmerie. As such, labour inspectors have the power to investigate criminal cases. Mr. Chambre underlined that workers are always seen as victims even if working illegally. Joint prosecutions are excluded, and workers have the right to receive 6 months salary, independent of whether the employer had previously paid or not. Irregular migrant worker are, however, not protected from deportation unless the case will be classified as trafficking case.

Sanctions against employers employing irregular migrant workers have recently been increased. Employers can face up to 5 years in prison and a fine of 15.000 EUR. If organised crime was involved, imprisonment can amount to 10 years in addition to a maximum fine of 100.000 EUR. France has a minimum wage provision but foreign workers often work for a third or less of it.

The office does not have the mandate to investigate sex trafficking cases but it covers all other industries. The French legislator has penalised “working and living conditions against human dignitary”. There are administrative regulations that specify decent working and living conditions. Mr. Chambre presented the case of a restaurant owner who grossly violated these provisions and was consequently punished under criminal law.

The presentation raised many practical issues such as entry of inspectors if the worksite is a private home, methods to interrogate workers and employers, collection of evidence and protection of labour inspectors, among others. Mr. Chambre underlined that obstructing labour inspectors to carry out their tasks is also punished under law.

In the final session on day 2, participants discussed three cases from Jordan in working groups. The cases stimulated an intense debate about different contractual arrangements and the absence of effective monitoring along the sub-contracting chain (e.g. when private recruitment agencies are part of a triangular employment relationship), cross-border placements as well as the extent of penalties.

During the third day, participants had the possibility to discuss obstacles that could hamper their inspection activity, such as:

  • Obstruction of entry
  • Threats to the safety of inspectors
  • Unclear criminal procedures and mandate of labour inspectors
  • Lack of operational guidelines (for enterprises other than those on the “Golden List”)
  • Low penalties that are not a deterrent for employers
  • Threats of employers to close and possibly to relocate the firm
  • Insufficient number of labour inspectors to cover all industries adequately
  • No strategies to cover the informal sector

The final module focused on victim identification and protection. The presentation was followed by a discussion around the following issues:

Workers find it difficult to defend themselves in court but legal assistance is very expensive.

Compensation could be ensured through deposits that employers are requested to lodge, in particular before employing foreign workers.

The working groups were asked to discuss practical issues and to make recommendations regarding a) the development of operational guidelines; b) the adjustment of inspection reports to cover issues of forced labour and human trafficking; and c) action planning to raise awareness and other measures.

Recommendations and conclusions

Below is a brief summary of recommendations that were made during the final plenary discussion:

  • Operational guidelines should cover relevant legal provisions, treatment of workers (e.g. interviews without employers) and a review of cases.
  • Detailed inspection reports exist already for companies that are part of the “Golden list”. They could serve as model for enhancing inspection reports as relevant. Data should be collected centrally and shared between inspectors, notwithstanding the protection of privacy.
  • Participants suggested more training of inspectors, awareness raising campaigns, closer cooperation with NGOs and trade unions.
  • Concerns were raised about the insufficient equipment of labour inspectors (e.g. office space, means of transport etc.).
  • The importance of collegial support was underlined, especially if an inspector is faced with corruption or other malpractices.
  • It was also suggested to hold an international conference of labour inspectors to exchange information on human trafficking, in particular with source countries of migrant workers.

To conclude, the commitment of these newly appointed labour inspectors and their overall positive evaluation of the training course was an encouraging experience. The training material proved to be useful but adaptation to the specific situation in Jordan should be considered apart from the translation into Arabic. As the Ministry of Labour is now reinforcing inspection capacity, possibilities of further training should be assessed, in particular by integrating the course into the regular training curriculum of the Inspector’s Training Centre. Continued investment in training is essential since the legislator is about to close important gaps in labour and criminal law, such as the proposed law on human trafficking and regulations on private employment agencies. Labour inspectors should have a strong mandate to enforce these laws. Collaboration with the newly launched “Better Work Project” is also critical in order to promote synergies between private auditing and government inspection. Finally, collaboration with other partners, in particular police and immigration, should be strengthened, possibly through joint investigations, memoranda of understanding and regular meetings.