The AFL-CIO and and the National Textile Association have taken the action under a US-Jordan free trade agreement, saying that Jordan is violating its labour provisions.

A Jordanian government statement said: "Regrettably the AFL-CIO and the NTA decided to file their case just days after labour conditions in Jordan were vigorously scrutinised and further remedial steps were agreed upon."

According to its website, the AFL-CIO acknowledged that Jordan had made some progress on the issue, but said the country's labour laws "fall short of international standards" and "the government has failed to effectively enforce its law".

The group called "on the Bush administration to initiate dispute-settlement proceedings under the FTA that would halt gross workers' rights violations occurring in Jordan".

John Sweeney, the AFL-CIO president, said: "The AFL-CIO fought hard to include meaningful labour rights provisions in the Jordan FTA, and we will fight just as hard to ensure that our government and the Jordanian government enforce these important provisions."

Industrial zones
 
The action follows a report earlier this year by the National Labor Committee for Worker and Human Rights, a New York-based advocacy group.

It said tens of thousands of foreign workers in Jordan's textile sector were routinely forced to work 100-plus hours a week while being cheated of full wages.

Following that report, Jordan said it took a series of steps to crack down on abuse in the so-called Qualified Industrial Zones that export garments to the US.
  
Bassem Salem, the Jordanian labour minister, said a plan was also being developed to protect foreign workers' rights with the help of the International Labour Organisation.

Salem told the Jordan Times newspaper that his ministry increased the number of inspectors, set up hotlines in seven Asian languages, shut down some factories and relocated more than 1,000 to other factories.