What you can learn from Amman about decent conditions of employment for the workers of contracted companies

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How can an embassy know whether workers of contracted companies are paid on time, can take holidays and don’t have to work overtime? Angelique van Dijke is the operational manager at the mission in Jordan. She tells us how she and her colleagues have ensured good employment conditions for the embassy’s security guards and cleaners.

The mission in Amman contracts two companies to provide cleaners and security guards, who keep the building and compound clean and safe. The contracts were carried out satisfactorily, but in a new contract award the mission wanted to do more to fulfil their supply chain responsibility – like making better arrangements on conditions of employment. These can’t be taken for granted in Jordan.

Bidding criteria
Angelique set to work. The security guards are mainly Jordanians, who earn the minimum wage set by the Jordanian government. ‘Not a particularly high salary, certainly if you have a family to feed,’ says Angelique. ‘And they work 12-hour shifts. So we asked ourselves: could we do anything about this? We contacted an NGO that calculated how much someone in Jordan would at least need to earn to support a family with two, four and six children, respectively. The results were far closer to a reasonable income. The security guards often have big families, so we opted for a standard minimum wage based on a family with four children. Other bidding criteria included good medical insurance for our security guards, 8-hour shifts and payment of a 13th-month bonus.

Sponsor
The cleaners were a different story. It’s difficult to find staff in Jordan, so companies take on women from Egypt and the Philippines for this work. These women can earn more in Jordan than in their own countries, but they have to have a sponsor in order to get a work permit. There are some conditions attached: the employees have to be under contract to the sponsor, who is required to give them basic medical insurance and an airline ticket home every two years. ‘There are agencies that abuse this system,’ says Angelique. ‘They offer foreign workers a complete package, and charge large amounts of money for arranging their flights to Jordan and finding a sponsor. The Jordanian government does nothing to prevent this – carrying out checks is too much work.’
You might ask why cleaning companies don’t act as sponsors. ‘Because the government wants to protect jobs in this sector for their own nationals, so they often reject applications from cleaning companies to sponsor workers from the Philippines in particular,’ Angelique explains. ‘Yet very few Jordanians want to do this work.’ Angelique wanted to prevent the cleaners at the embassy from falling into the hands of rogue agencies. ‘The embassy can’t act as sponsor,’ she says. ‘But we helped the cleaning company with a letter in support of their application, so that they had a better chance. For the record, the contract award included the same conditions of employment as those required for the security guards.’

Awareness
And so the embassy in Amman succeeded in securing better employment conditions for its five security guards and two cleaners. ‘What matters is to be aware of this issue when contracting an external party to provide staff,’ says Angelique. ‘Conditions of employment are not adequately safeguarded in every country. I knew nothing about sponsorship until I came to Jordan. We made inquiries about this system with other embassies and our local staff. You have to get to know the situation. And if you come up with a good plan, we found that the ministry is more than willing to help.’