AMMAN — "I feel terribly exhausted at the end of the day," said Samar Ahmad, a hairstylist at a beauty salon in west Amman.
“You can imagine what working 10 hours a day, six days a week at a beauty centre during the summer would be like.”
Yet fear of losing her job or having her salary withheld prevents Ahmad from complaining to her employer or asking for a day off.
“My employer gets upset when I ask for a day off or complain about long hours. I have not signed a contract with them, which means I am not entitled to sick leave or holidays," she said.
"I have no choice but to get up and go to work. Otherwise, she suggests that I quit of my own free will,” the 29-year-old added.
Last year, an agreement promising beauty salon workers better protection under the Labour Law was signed between the Association of Workers in Public Services and Free Professions and the Association of Beauty Salon Owners.
"After receiving complaints raised by women working at beauty salons, we signed this agreement to ensure workers are paid the minimum wage, work regular hours, are paid for overtime work, and are entitled to sick leave and holidays," said Khaled Abu Marzuq, president of the Association of Workers in Public Services and Free Professions.
When asked how his association was monitoring the implementation of the agreement, Tayseer Suleiman, its vice president, said: "We continue to urge owners of beauty salons to abide by the agreement, but we would not know if someone's rights are violated unless they complain to us.”
For Ahmad and other workers The Jordan Times spoke with, this agreement means "nothing".
"I have been working here for two months. When I mention the contract, my employer suggests that I leave. She says that she can easily find someone else. All of these agreements and associations mean nothing to us, as nothing ever changed afterwards," Ahmad said.
Um Ali, another hair stylist in Amman, told The Jordan Times that her employer constantly "threatened" to replace her with a foreigner when she complained about work conditions.
"This is all nothing. My employer threatens to throw me out and bring in more workers from the Philippines. She says they work non-stop without complaining," said the 49-year-old.
Discrimination in pay rates between Jordanians and foreigners is a common complaint raised by workers at beauty centres in Amman.
"I have 20 years of experience and I get paid only JD250 per month. My manager pays double my salary to guest workers with no experience, simply because customers prefer foreign hairstylists. It is not fair," said Um Ali.
Representatives of both associations said they were "aware" that many beauty salon owners did not abide by the agreement and called on the Ministry of Labour to play a greater role.
"We know the problems are not solved. We still hear complaints from workers, and we read about them on social media sites," said Abu Marzuq, the workers’ association president.
"Now, it is the Ministry of Labour that should be monitoring beauty salons. They are authorised to enter beauty salons and perform regular checks," he added.
The ministry, however, said it had received few complaints.
"We only came across one or two cases of complaints from workers, who said their employers were late in paying their salaries," said Kamal Al Maanai, head of the investigative unit at the ministry.
"Our investigative unit performs regular inspections. We encourage those who have complaints to come forward to us," Maanai added.
A study released by the Phenix Centre for Economic and Informatics Studies in 2010 criticised the working conditions of workers in beauty salons in Jordan.
Hundreds of workers received less than the minimum wage, the study found, while the majority of employees worked an average of 10 hours per day and 48 hours per week.