Category Archives: Palestinian Labor

Gaza laborers suffer few rights, little pay (Electronic Intifada)

Electronic Intifada

Gaza laborers suffer few rights, little pay

Gaza Workers
Gaza construction workers can barely scrape by after nearly a decade of Israeli blockade.

Ashraf AmraAPA images

Hani Abu Talal is a man on a mission.

The 34-year-old laborer spends his days pounding the streets of the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip for any new construction projects to which he might lend his body and time.

His is the lot of a day laborer. His luck lies in the hands of the rare on-site foreman with something to offer. His mission is near impossible. This is Gaza: it has the world’s highest unemployment rate.

“Landing a job happens only once in a blue moon,” Abu Talal said. “I just look for any chance to get some work and make some money.”

The odd day’s work also does not guarantee respite from grinding poverty. A father of five, Abu Talal says he is lucky if a full day’s hard physical labor earns him more than 30 shekels (just under $8).

“Construction is hard work,” Abu Talal told The Electronic Intifada. “But instead of being fairly paid, we are blackmailed; we are told that wages cannot be higher because of the lack of stability in the local economy.”

From time to time, Israel allows through a shipment of construction materials, causing a mini-spike in activity. But the wages remain the same, and Abu Talal worries that should a situation ever arise where construction enjoys a sustained boom, employers will simply keep wages low.

“If any worker dares to ask for an increase, he can be fired. So we continue to work without complaint. But that does not mean to leave us alone. We have rights. We need them respected.”

Wages besieged

What few shekels Abu Talal makes at the end of a day are barely sufficient to pay the owner of his local grocery store from where his family get their essentials. As for the future? There are no savings. There is only constant, nagging fear, he said, that one of his children should one day need urgent medical care.

Awad Baker is a contractor and one of those from whom Abu Talal would seek work. Most of his construction projects are in the central Gaza Strip, the same area where Abu Talal ekes out his living. He lays the blame for low wages and the lack of job opportunities squarely on the economic blockade that Israel has imposed on Gaza since 2007.

“We have sustained so many losses due to the siege that we are all heavily in debt,” Baker told The Electronic Intifada. “These have to be repaid.”

Where construction materials are rare, they become more expensive. The balance is borne by labor. Contractors rely heavily on cheap, unskilled labor, which in turn affects quality. And the longer that continues, the less skilled the workers, said Baker.

After nearly 10 years under siege, Baker added, “our workers’ skills have plummeted to the extent that it affects the quality of our work. Our sector is devastated.”

The combination of the blockade and successive Israeli military assaults saw construction output in 2014, year of the last major Israeli offensive, fall by a staggering 83 percent, according to the World Bank.

Government failures

Economist Maher al-Tabaa, head of Gaza’s Chamber of Commerce, put it in stark terms: “When we have a very restricted number of jobs for hundreds of thousands of workers, wages decrease. The blockade has denied the local economy access to many jobs and options are limited for our workers.”

With this oversupply of labor, al-Tabaa said, workers are more likely to accept work that doesn’t pay a fair wage.

But Sami al-Amasi, head of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions in Gaza, says the siege is not the only factor responsible for the desperate situation of local workers.

He also fingered the policies of the now defunct Palestinian unity government which, he said, early in its tenure in 2014, canceled training and employment programs that could have helped people back to work.

The unity government was formed after an agreement between Hamas and Fatah in June 2014, but was beset by mutual suspicions from the start. A year later, it resigned, and since then Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority leader, has twice unilaterally reshuffled the cabinet. Though Hamas rejected both reshuffles, the government is still called a consensus government.

Temporary employment and professional training programs had in the past helped mitigate the unemployment crisis, al-Amasi said, and were intended to serve workers in all sectors, including construction.

Their cancellation, he said, marked not only a failure of policy — which continues under the present Palestinian Authority administration — but also showed a “disregard” for Gaza and its population.

Al-Amasi also said there had been a failure to implement existing laws on workers’ rights, citing legislation for a minimum monthly wage of 1,450 shekels (approximately $380).

Not just the money

Construction worker Adham Abdelrahman, 39, receives less than 800 shekels per month. He works a grueling 12-hour day on average. He also had no idea that the law set a minimum wage of almost twice the amount he earns.

“I have never been paid this much. What’s the point of laws if they are not implemented?”

He said he was skeptical that officials have his interests or rights at heart.

And pay is not the only issue facing construction workers. Safety regulations are rarely implemented, workers have no health insurance and they are unlikely to receive any compensation in case of on-site accidents.

Salem al-Bashiti, 44, suffered a workplace accident four years ago that left one arm partially paralyzed.

“I was lucky that my contractor was a kind man who helped me cover some of the costs of treatment. But I know many who were abandoned without even some words of consolation after their accidents,” he said.

He looks forward to a day, he said, when construction workers could enjoy not only rights enshrined in law and enforced on site, but more general recognition.

“We work hard to serve and build our country. We deserve to be honored and treated well,” he said.

Isra Saleh el-Namey is a journalist in Gaza.

Palestinian labour movement welcomes Fuecys union in Uruguay support for Israel boycott (Palestinian Trade Unions)

BNCPalestinian labour movement welcomes Fuecys union in Uruguay support for Israel boycott

 

The Palestinian labor movement welcomes the declaration from the Human Rights Secretariat of the Uruguayan Federation of Workers of Services and Commerce (Fuecys) calling for the boycott of Israeli products and for companies in Uruguay to break their ties with Israel’s apartheid. We salute this principled commitment and concrete initiative of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality.

We also deeply appreciate the public support that the Trade Union Centre of G4S employees in Uruguay has extended to the campaign against the British security company G4S. The company has lost contracts worth millions of dollars in more than a dozen countries during the four-year long global campaign lead by the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement over its role in in Israeli prisons that hold Palestinian political prisoners, settlements and checkpoints.

We stand in solidarity with the Uruguayan G4S workers, whose labor rights are being violated by G4S and other international corporations.

We hope the whole of PIT-CNT, Uruguay’s Federation of Labor Unions, will decide to support the Palestinian appeal issued in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian organizations, including all Palestinian parties and trade unions, to turn rhetoric solidarity into effective actions by joining the BDS movement.

Trade union support for BDS in Latin America and around the world is continuously growing. Fuecys and the whole of PIT-CNT should join important unions in the region that already support the BDS movement, such as CUT, CSP-Conlutas, and CTB, from Brazil, and CTA and CTA Autónoma, from Argentina.

From India to Sweden, South Africa and the United States, trade unions and workers have blocked Israeli ships from docking, dozens of trade unions and their confederations are actively pressuring corporations and governments to cut relations with Israel and join campaigns of boycotts, divestments and sanctions.

Trade unions that have already spoken out in opposition to the role that G4S plays in the oppression of Palestinians include Unite and Unison in the United Kigdom, Dutch union Abvakabo, Norwegian union Industri Energi and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).

As COSATU already in 2006 stated: “Boycotts, disinvestments and sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa hastened our march to democracy. Why should it be different for Palestinians? In the face of an intransigent, arrogant, racist and brutal Israeli state, this strategy of isolation – particularly since the vast majority of Palestinians support it – should be applied to Israel as well. It is a peaceful option.”

In fact, the global movement that contributed to the end of apartheid in South Africa inspired the Palestinian movements and unions to call on people of conscience all over the world to apply non-violent pressure on Israel until it respects the international law and the Palestinian human rights.
The growing impact of the BDS movement is giving new hope to the Palestinian struggle, and and boycotts, divestment and sanctions have become fundamental elements of solidarity for all those that truly want to support the Palestinian cause.

From Palestine to Latin America, we are united against all forms of oppression and discrimination. Fellow workers in Uruguay, your effective solidarity with our struggle for freedom, justice and equality is more crucial today than ever!

Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) – Gaza Strip

Palestinian Federation of Independent Trade Unions

The Palestinian Federation of New Unions

General Union of Palestinian Workers (GUPW)

El movimiento obrero palestino celebra la declaración de la Secretaría de Derechos Humanos de la Federación Uruguaya de Empleados de Comercio y Servicios (FUECYS), la cual llama al boicot de productos israelíes y pide que empresas en Uruguay rompan sus lazos con el régimen de apartheid israelí. Saludamos este compromiso y esta iniciativa concreta de solidaridad con la lucha palestina por libertad, justicia y igualdad.

También apreciamos profundamente el apoyo público que el Centro Sindical de Trabajadores de G4S de Uruguay ha extendido a la campaña en contra de la compañía de seguridad británica G4S. La compañía ha perdido contratos de millones de dólares en más de una docena de países durante la campaña mundial de cuatro años del movimiento global de Boicot, Desinversión y Sanciones (BDS) como consecuencia de su papel en las cárceles israelíes que mantienen prisioneros/as políticos/as palestinos/as, en las colonias ilegales y en los puestos de control de Israel.

Manifestamos nuestra solidaridad con los trabajadores/as de G4S Uruguay, cuyos derechos laborales son violados por G4S y otras corporaciones internacionales.

Esperamos que la totalidad del PIT-CNT tomará la decisión de apoyar el llamamiento palestino hecho en 2005 por más de 170 organizaciones palestinas, incluyendo todos los partidos políticos y sindicatos palestinos, para convertir la solidaridad retórica en acciones efectivas al unirse al movimiento BDS.

El apoyo sindical al BDS en América Latina y en todo el mundo está en continuo crecimiento. FUECYS y el conjunto del PIT-CNT deben unirse a sindicatos importantes de la región que ya apoyan el movimiento BDS, como la CUT, CSP-Conlutas, y CTB, de Brasil, y la CTA y la CTA Autónoma, de Argentina.

De India a Suecia, de Sudáfrica a los Estados Unidos, sindicatos y trabajadores/as han impedido atracar a barcos israelíes en los puertos, decenas de sindicatos y sus confederaciones están presionando activamente a corporaciones y gobiernos para reducir las relaciones con Israel y unirse a las campañas de boicot, desinversiones y sanciones.

Los sindicatos que ya se han pronunciado en contra de la función que desempeña G4S en la opresión del pueblo palestino incluyen Unite y Unison en el Reino Unido, el sindicato holandés Abvakabo, el noruego Industri Energi y el Congreso de Sindicatos de Sudáfrica (COSATU).

Como COSATU ya en 2006 declaró: “Los boicots, desinversiones y sanciones contra el régimen del apartheid en Sudáfrica aceleraron nuestra marcha hacia la democracia. ¿Por qué debería ser diferente para los/as palestinos/as? Frente a un intransigente, prepotente, racista y brutal Estado israelí, esta estrategia de aislamiento – sobre todo porque la gran mayoría de los/as palestinos/as la apoya – se debe aplicar a Israel. Es una opción pacífica”.

De hecho, el movimiento global que contribuyó al fin del apartheid en Sudáfrica inspiró a los movimientos y sindicatos palestinos a pedir a las personas de conciencia de todo el mundo que apliquen presión no violenta en Israel hasta que éste respete el derecho internacional y los derechos humanos del pueblo palestino.

El creciente impacto del movimiento de BDS está dando una nueva esperanza a la lucha palestina, y los boicots, desinversiones y sanciones se han convertido en elementos fundamentales de la solidaridad para todos aquellos que realmente quieren apoyar la causa palestina.

Desde Palestina a Latinoamérica, estamos unidos contra todas las formas de opresión y discriminación. Compañeros/as trabajadores/as de Uruguay, hoy su solidaridad efectiva con nuestra lucha por libertad, justicia y igualdad es más importante que nunca!

Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) – Gaza Strip
Federación General de Sindicatos de Palestina – Franja de Gaza

Palestinian Federation of Independent Trade Unions
Federación Palestina de Sindicatos Independientes

The Palestinian Federation of New Unions
Federación Palestina de Nuevos Sindicatos

General Union of Palestinian Workers (GUPW)
Sindicato General de Trabajadores/as Palestinos/as

– See more at: https://bdsmovement.net/2016/palestinian-labour-movement-welcomes-fuecys-union-uruguay-support-israel-boycott-14128#sthash.CbgMUZqt.dpuf

May 1 message by the New Unions (PFNTU)

To workers every were in this world,

To all trade unions representing the workers and leading the workers struggle for their rights,

In this day, the day of labour struggle and internationalism of the working class against class oppression and exploitation and all forms of racism and racial discrimination, the Palestinian New Federation of Trade Unions (PNFTU) salutes all those workers and trade unions that are with us in the struggle for workers rights and against capitalism and neoliberalism. We wish your struggles success, so that we advance together towards a world of peace, justice and equality away from wars, colonialism and savage globalization and the increase of right wing governments and forces as well as austerity policies across the globe can be defeated.

The PNFTU has announced its official recognition as trade union federation in a labour conference on March 19 2016, in the presence of representatives of our grassroots base as well as those of Palestinian political parties and authorities and international supporters. We are proud that after 5 years of organizing and mobilizing of Palestinian workers, the PNFTU has been strengthened by official recognition in a moment of ongoing mobilization and strikes of the Palestinian working class.

Our efforts started in 2010 with a successful labor strike of 90 workers in a chemical factory in the settlement industrial zone in Tulkarem city, in the north of the West Bank. The strike lasted for six months before we were able to achieve our aims and saw our demands fulfilled. The failure of the then existing trade union federations to support the workers in their strike, was the main reason behind the decision of these workers to renew our labour movement and to establish new and independent unions.

Today the PNFTU is formed of 26 regional branches of different sector unions and represents more than ten thousand workers from different sectors of Palestinian economy, including construction workers, food industry workers, agricultural workers, textile workers, public service workers, secretarial and administrative workers, transportation workers, mechanics and employees of the tourist services. We are committed to the legacy of the Palestinian national and class struggle for justice, democracy and freedom and it is our mission to defend and achieve labour and national rights for the Palestinian working class, always upholding our principles of unity, class consciousness, democracy and independence.

Since the beginning of 2016, the Palestinian labour movement has been organizing growing mass protests to demand our rights. During January and February, the Palestinian teachers union has maintained unity in an almost two months long strike for decent salaries and benefits. We have been actively supporting their efforts and applaud their determination.

On April 19, some ten thousand people have marched through Ramallah to oppose the so-called ‘social security’ law. PNFTU is part of the national committee formed to coordinate and organize the struggle to stop this law and to protect our rights. If implemented as suggested, this law would put our pension fund savings at risk, legitimize Israeli theft of the union fees of Palestinian workers employed in Israeli business and discriminate against large sections of our society. The PNFTU, the left-wing parliamentary blocs and other independent trade unions, civil society institutions and human rights organizations, will continue to organize mass demonstrations against this law.

On this occasion we renew our commitment to our working class to continue the struggle for labour rights as much as for our national rights. We believe that the neoliberal policies implemented by the Palestinian authorities and the exploitation imposed by employers are not only violations of labour rights but directly undermine from within the capacity of the Palestinian society to remain steadfast against Israeli occupation and apartheid.

We thank all those unions and labour activists that throughout the decades have stood with our people in solidarity. We deeply appreciate your efforts and your commitment to internationalism and call upon you to continue to support our struggle for self-determination and the decolonization of Palestine. Today, that Israeli policies continue to hold Gaza under inhumane siege, the majority of our people is still dispersed as refugees unable to return to their homes, thousands are held in Israeli prisons, home demolitions and confiscations are intensified with the aim to cleanse 60% of the occupied West Bank from its Palestinian people, your solidarity is more important than ever.

We renew the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) until Israel respects international law and human rights. Over history, from Ireland to India, from South Africa to the United States – workers and citizens have proven that boycotts are among the most powerful and convincing tools people’s movements and solidarity actions can choose in front of intransigent and unbearable oppression. The BDS movement is today an integral part of the Palestinian national liberation struggle and has empowered international solidarity globally to achieve concrete and effective change.

Let us work together against all forms of oppression and exploitation,

Long live the May 1!

Executive committee of the Palestinian New Federation of Trade Unions,
1st of May, 2016

May Day 2016: Work under colonialism and the politics of solidarity in Palestine & USA

Wednesday, May 4 at 6 PM8:30 PM in PDT
San Franicsco State University LIB121

Solidarity Rising: Two More UAW Graduate Employee Units Endorse BDS!

Screenshot 2016-03-23 17.48.25Solidarity Rising: Two More UAW
Graduate Employee Units Endorse BDS!

 

Screenshot 2016-04-26 18.30.03Joint Statement GSOC-UAW 2110 and GEO-UAW 2322 are Latest Unions to Vote for Divestment
This past week the NYU Graduate Employee Union (GSOC-UAW 2110) and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Graduate Employee Union (GEO-UAW 2322), both representing 2,000 members each, endorsed by full membership vote the call from all major Palestinian trade unions and civil society groups to impose Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. . . . In December 2014, the 14,000 student-worker union at the University of California (UAW Local 2865) system passed a similar resolution supporting BDS with 65% in favor.

 

JWJContext: America’s Labor Unions Are Increasingly Standing with Palestine (Alternet)
Following a well-attended panel hosted by Western Mass Labor for Palestine at the April 16 Jobs With Justice Conference in Springfield, MA, author Vijay Prashad extensively reviews the rise of Labor for Palestine and U.S. trade union support for BDS. Panelists included Prashad, LFP Co-Conveners Suzanne Adely and Michael Letwin, Carol Lambiase (United Electrical Workers), Bill Shortell (International Association of Machinists), and was moderated by WMLFP members Jordy Rosenberg and Ruth Jennison. Prashad’s article concludes by quoting Adely: “Ultimately, building labor solidarity with Palestine and with all anti-racist struggles is part of the fight to build a stronger, democratic union movement.”

 

delegation-birzeitLabor to Palestine: We Stand with Palestine in the Spirit of “Sumud”: The U.S. Prisoner, Labor and Academic Solidarity Delegation to Palestine
On April 16, the nineteen-member March 2016 delegation to Palestine, which included LFP Co-convener Jaime Veve and several other trade unionists, issued a powerful report stating, in part: “We join hands with our comrades in the Palestinian labor movement and salute the struggle of striking teachers, labor organizers and workers demanding economic justice, independence and national self-determination from colonial structures. We further pledge to campaign in the ranks of U.S. labor to divest from Israeli bonds and sever ties between the AFL-CIO and the Histadrut.” To host a local event with delegation members, contact palestine.prison.delegation16@gmail.com

 

socialsecstrike-maanLabor in Palestine: Mass Rally Against Approval of New “Social Security” Law (IMEMC)
Thousands of Palestinians, on Tuesday, demonstrated outside of a government building, in the occupied West Bank hub of Ramallah, against the Palestinian Authority’s approval of a new law many believe fails to provide adequate protection for workers. . . . Weeks earlier, a teachers’ strike brought the largest public demonstrations against the PA in years.

Analysis: Eric Lee: The Online Labour Solidarity Whiz who’s ‘Proud to be a Zionist’
In a new article, British BDS activists Peter Waterman discusses the hypocrisy of Zionist anti-BDS spokesperson Eric Lee, owner of the widely-read website, LabourStart.

Download: New Labor for Palestine Pamphlet
Key background documents from Labor for Palestine, prepared for 2016 Labor Notes conference.

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Mass Rally Against Approval of New “Social Security” Law (IMEMC)

IMEMC

Mass Rally Against Approval of New “Social Security” Law

April 19, 2016 11:21 PM

socialsecstrike-maan

Thousands of Palestinians, on Tuesday, demonstrated outside of a government building, in the occupied West Bank hub of Ramallah, against the Palestinian Authority’s approval of a new law many believe fails to provide adequate protection for workers.

Social Security Act No. 6 was ratified by PA Cabinet members in February and approved by defacto Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas the following month.

The law has since brought a downpour of criticism from critics who say it disadvantages those with disabilities, retirees, and private sector workers.

The organizers of Tuesday’s rally demanded that the new law be suspended until discussions were held on a national level, in order to address concerns that the law acts as a detriment to employee savings without guaranteeing security from the state.

Organizers said that, under the new social security system, “expected retirement income won’t be enough to enable retired employees and workers to live in dignity.”

While the PA was expected to begin implementation at the beginning of this month, a number of political parties in parliament, civic organizations, and trade unions reportedly opposed the law.

Palestinian union officials, in approving the draft law under pressure from employers, called upon them to rescind their endorsements, Ma’an News Agency additionally reported..

A leader of Palestinian Progressive Labor Union Front (PLUF), Mohammad Jawabra, earlier this month said the law “failed to prioritize the interests and needs of workers,” creating “a social security system that ensures workers with disabilities and retirees will live in poverty.”

PLUF also criticized union officials for allegedly approving the draft law under pressure from employers, and called upon them to rescind their endorsements.

Tuesday’s rally marked the most recent amid an apparent increase in public demonstration against the PA in recent months.

A large group demonstrated in Ramallah earlier this week demanding the PA release three Palestinians detained on suspicions of planning an attack against Israel.

Weeks earlier, a teachers’ strike brought the largest public demonstrations against the PA in years.

See: 02/17/16 22 Striking Teachers Detained by PA Security

Ten thousand mobilize in Ramallah to fight for social rights (Palestinian Grassroots Anti-apartheid Wall Campaign)

Today, a first mass demonstration against the social security law that has been issued by president Abu Mazen and is supposed to come into force on April 21 has shown an overwhelming opposition among the Palestinian population to the policies of the Palestinian National Authority. After the mobilization of the teachers union at the beginning of this year, this is the second time Palestinian masses are out on the streets against the policies of the PNA.

The Social Security Act No. 6 was ratified by PA Cabinet members in February and approved by President Mahmoud Abbas the following month. When the news about the new law and the details of it became public, a national committee composed of two Palestinian union confederations – the New Unions, the Independent Unions, the Palestinian Progressive Labour Union Front – and autonomous unions of private businesses as well as the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), has been formed in order to coordinate opposition to the law. The demand of today’s protest was an immediately freeze of the law.

The law would disadvantage those with disabilities, retirees, women and private sector workers. The minimum wage would be reduced to 726 NIS, retirement benefits reduced to 51% of the salary before retirement. Further, the law would allow the PNA to take over saving fund of Palestinian institutions and for a fund to be created, to which Israel supposedly should transfer the Palestinian workers dues it has collected since 1967. The National Committee against the Social Security Act n.6 argues that the takeover of the independent saving funds by the PNA will create insecurity for workers on the one hand, as the PNA is not a state and its stability is continuously at risk, and give the PNA a huge financial resource of billions of NIS without giving workers any guarantee about what the PNA will do with this fund.

Muhammad Bleidi, president of the New Unions Confederation explained:

“This law has been issued and decided upon without any consultation with the people affected by it. Abu Mazen and his cabinet have decided upon it when, legally speaking, it should be decided by the legislative council.

“It is only serving the interests of the business class and Israeli interests. We see it a capitalist project that is dismantling the Palestinian labour law. It further comes to legalize Israel’s and the Histadrut’s illegal appropriation of Palestinian workers dues.

“As the workers have not been included in the process, they will be the ones to be failed. We consider the workers rights, like the refugee rights, as inalienable rights. We will fight any law regarding our rights, in which we will not be consulted.

“We are struggling for social justice, and we are struggling for a social security law but this is not the law and not the way we will accept.”

The National Committee in opposition to the Social Security Act n.6 to freeze the law and to restart discussions that involve all parties in order to produce a consensus on such a law. Unfortunately, the PNA has rejected all those demands and insists on bringing the law into force on April 21. In response, the National Committee is preparing further mobilization and escalation of the protests.

This is the second major mass movement in the occupied West Bank in defense of social and labour rights against the neoliberal policies of the Palestinian National Authority, which put another layer of attacks on the Palestinian people.

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American and Palestinian Unionists Build International Solidarity To Win ‘Freedom’ for Palestine (In These Times)

In These Times
WEDNESDAY, APR 6, 2016, 3:12 PM

American and Palestinian Unionists Build International Solidarity To Win ‘Freedom’ for Palestine

BY JEFF SCHUHRKE

ITT.1

In an address on Middle East policy last month, Bernie Sanders —the first Jewish American to win a presidential primary—did something virtually unheard of in contemporary U.S. politics when he called for an end to “what amounts to the occupation of Palestinian territory” by Israel.

The only candidate to skip the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC’s annual conference in Washington, Sanders instead delivered a speech from Utah in which he acknowledged that “today there is a whole lot of suffering among Palestinians” due to the occupation.

“For a presidential candidate to break from the mold, like it seems maybe Sanders is doing, and to talk about the fact that the occupation needs to end, is something that’s exciting to Palestinians,” says Manawel Abdel-Al, a member of the general secretariat of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU).

“We hope this isn’t just election talk,” he adds. “People were very excited about Barack Obama as well and we didn’t get much progress. But we’re hopeful.”

Abdel-Al—who lives in occupied East Jerusalem—is visiting Chicago this week at the invitation of the United Electrical Workers (UE), the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, and Jewish Voice for Peace to enlist the support of the U.S. labor movement in the Palestinian liberation struggle. He addressed standing-room-only audiences of rank-and-file unionists at last weekend’s Labor Notes conference and again on Tuesday night at the local UE Hall.

A machine repair technician by trade, Abdel-Al has been a union activist for three decades. He tells In These Times that throughout their history, Palestinian trade unions have always waged a “two-part” battle. “We represent workers in the class struggle for socioeconomic rights, but also in the national, political struggle for freedom and independence,” he says, noting that the Palestinian labor movement has managed to endure despite a century of repression and upheaval under British, Jordanian, and Israeli control.

Abdel-Al’s PGFTU represents 14 private sector unions in the West Bank and Gaza. In the West Bank, Abdel-Al says the PGFTU negotiates collective bargaining agreements with employers and successfully convinced the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) to pass a minimum wage law in 2012. The union federation is now calling for the P.A. to implement social welfare policies by next year.

Meanwhile, over 25,000 public schoolteachers (not affiliated with PGFTU) staged a one-month strike earlier this year to call for the P.A. to honor a promised pay raise that had been “left on the backburner for three years,” Abdel-Al says. The strike ended last month after President Mahmoud Abbas intervened and promised back pay and a 10 percent wage increase.

Abdel-Al’s PGFTU is not recognized by the Israeli government, leaving unprotected the approximately 92,000 West Bank Palestinians who regularly cross into and out of Israel and Israeli settlements for work. Abdel-Al explains that while many of these workers have legal permits to be employed in Israel, many others are unauthorized workers—hired under-the-table by Israeli employers—and face extreme exploitation. “When they’re injured on the job, they’re simply taken to the closest border checkpoint and left there. The employer disappears.”

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Abdel-Al at Chicago’s Haymarket monument. (Jeff Schuhrke)

Regardless of their legal status, Abdel-Al says that all Palestinian workers in Israel, including Palestinian citizens of Israel, face discrimination, arbitrary dismissal, low pay, and a host of other issues on the job.  “All we want is freedom from oppression,” he says, asking U.S. unionists to do whatever they can to help their fellow workers in Palestine.

Heeding this call, last August, UE became the first national U.S. labor union to endorse Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)—a global, nonviolent movement to protest Israeli human rights violations inspired by the successful efforts of civil society groups to pressure South Africa’s apartheid regime in the 1980s.

While the activist network Labor for Palestine has been pushing U.S. unions to get behind BDS for the past decade, serious strides have only been made in the two years since Israel’s 2014 bombardment of Gaza, which killed 1,462 civilians. In December 2014, BDS was endorsed by University of California graduate student workers with UAW Local 2865—a vote that was controversially nullified by the UAW’s International Executive Board earlier this year. Following Local 2865 and UE’s lead, the Connecticut AFL-CIO also passed a resolution in favor of BDS late last year.

BDS is gaining traction within the international labor movement as well, with support from unions in South Africa, the UK, Norway, Brazil, and elsewhere. Last April, it was endorsed by Canada’s Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN), which represents 325,000 public and private sector workers in Quebec.

“I think BDS is a powerful tool to educate people on what is happening in Palestine,” Nathalie Guay, coordinator of CSN’s international relations, tells In These Times. Guay, who helped connect the PGFTU and UE, hopes that more North American unions will not only endorse BDS, but also send their members on delegations to Palestine to learn about the situation first-hand. “Every single person who goes there comes back as an activist for Palestine. We need more of that.”

Noting the growing international influence of unions from the global south, including Brazil’s pro-BDS Central Única dos Trabalhadores, Guay predicts the international labor movement will continue to increase its support for Palestine in the years to come. “I think there will be some evolution,” she says.

This evolution is already evident in the International Trade Union Confederation—a global organization composed of the world’s major labor federations—which has issued increasingly critical statements of Israel since the 2014 assault on Gaza.

“We believe statements are not enough and hope the ITUC will change its policies in a more definitive way to help end the occupation,” Abdel-Al says. “But no matter how small, this is a positive change.”

Abdel-Al took time out of his busy schedule this week to visit the Haymarket memorial—a tribute to martyred Chicago unionists who were hanged in 1887 as a result of their activism in support of the 8-hour workday. “This is the birthplace of the worldwide labor movement. Around the world, we celebrate labor on May 1st because of what happened in Chicago.”

He wants U.S. labor activists to remember that occupied Palestinians are also oppressed workers. “Any activism, any support for us would be in accordance with a slogan that is well known by the working class everywhere—workers of the world, unite! Through solidarity and willpower, workers can make changes and bring about the achievement of rights for persecuted and oppressed people everywhere.”

Jeff Schuhrke is a Summer 2013 editorial intern at In These Times.

Similar to the West Bank, Gaza’s workers protest to demand fair pay (Mondoweiss)

Mondoweiss

Similar to the West Bank, Gaza’s workers protest to demand fair pay

Israel/Palestine

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“I go early to my work every day, and do my best to efficiently do my duty and serve my people. But instead of being honored by receiving my salary, I am left to demonstrate and shout in order to get my right of a salary,” Matter said.

He is one of tens of thousands of workers in Gaza who are offered only a small part of their salaries every fifty days or so. This has created a harsh reality for them and their families in a climate of deteriorating living conditions in the coastal enclave.

“We are blackmailed in political splits, and left prone to extortion so that our leaders can achieve their narrow political interests,” he added.

Gaza’s underpaid health, sanitation and public education workers declared a partial strike in an attempt to attract the attention of the unity government. They are calling on Rami Hamdallah, the appointed Prime Minister, to fulfill his earlier promises to settle the issue of Gaza’s workers, who had been financially neglected by the Palestinian Authority.

All demonstrations held by the workers have been directed toward the headquarters of the unity government, based in northern Gaza City. Dozens of unpaid workers took to the streets in the protests, chanting slogans to demand equity and transparency. They demanded their right to work insurance, which they argue should remain preserved regardless of political instability instead of being used as a tool within the government’s internal issues.

Mohammed Siam, head of the workers’ syndicate, holds the government in Ramallah fully accountable, since it refuses to recognize the workers’ rights to be paid from the PA budget. “It is totally unacceptable for the government to go on with this policy of denial toward Gaza’s employees. It is ultimately their right to receive their funds in a regular pattern,” Siam said.

In Gaza, there are about 45,000 workers functioning as the breadwinners for more than 250,000 people, according to the syndicate.

Teachers in the West Bank held a high-profile month-long strike of their own strike to demand full payments from the government. One excuse that the government in Ramallah gives for its failure to pay teachers is that the Palestinian Authority needs to adjust its budget in order to combat the impact from the massive Israeli attacks waged on Gaza and to expedite reconstruction efforts there.

This excuse was particularly shocking for people in Gaza, whose expectations of the government were severely defeated after the last war, in 2014. Many people in Gaza accuse the government of neglecting Gaza. But the workers’ syndicate goes further: “The government and President Mahmoud Abbas conspire against Gaza and its people. They not only abstain from helping us, but they incur more troubles when they fail to pay the workers,” Siam added.

The syndicate said that the government now owes the workers millions of dollars.

The unity government has only paid Gaza’s workers once since its formation in June of 2014. The government paid each of 24,000 workers $1,200 in October of 2014. However, payment was withheld from the remaining workers – those who were employed by the Interior Ministry rather than the unity government – despite that the State of Qatar has donated funds in order to pay them.

Reem Saher, a worker and active participant in the protests, considers the government to be responsible for her terrible circumstances. Saher, a mother of four, is often forced to rely on debts in order to meet her family’s needs. “I abandon most of my expenses,” she said. “Most of the time, we live from hand to mouth.”

Saher is not interested in government talks about Palestinian reconciliation if they will not bring an end to the workers’ crisis. “Our rights should be seen as a red line, if they still have a living conscience,” she said.

The intractable issue bears many repercussions because it began in 2007, when Hamas employed thousands of new workers to replace those who were refusing to work under the new government. At the time, these workers were urged by the PA not to work if they wanted to receive their usual salaries. Due to disagreements over the Syrian crisis, Hamas then severed ties with Iran, which had previously been a main ally of the Islamic organization. The Palestinian government’s financial resources and revenue were exhausted as a result.

About Isra Saleh El-Namy

Isra Saleh El-Namy is a journalist in Gaza.

– See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2016/03/similar-to-the-west-bank-gazas-workers-protest-to-demand-fair-pay/?utm_source=Mondoweiss+List&utm_campaign=911bafd273-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b86bace129-911bafd273-398519677#sthash.rteqyC5Q.dpuf

The New Unions are officially recognised as trade union confederation (Palestinian Grassroots Anti-apartheid Wall Campaign)

Saturday, March 26, the Palestine New Federation of Trade Unions (New Unions) have celebrated their official recognition as trade union federation by the Palestinian authorities and at the same time have held their annual congress, voting for a new union council and executive committee. The New Unions unite today  26 trade unions in all of the 10 West Bank districts and represent around 10 000 workers from all sectors.

The event was packed and representatives from a large spectrum of political and social forces addressed the New Unions with their messages of support. Everybody stressed the hope that the New Unions will bring new force to the class struggle in Palestine and strengthen the national struggle for self-determination.

Muhammad Jawabreh, a long standing unionist and one of the co-founders of the New Unions, gave the opening remarks of the congress and declared the birth of this new progressive trade union, which works to achieve the right to a free life with dignity for all workers and keeps committed to the legacy of the Palestinian national and class struggle for justice, democracy and freedom.

New Unions2Nasser Qatami, deputy minister of labour, congratulated the New Union for the official recognition as a trade union confederation and expressed the readiness of the ministry to cooperate and facilitate the work of the union in order for them to achieve the goals they have been established for. Bassam al Salhi, secretary general of the Palestinian People’s Party, encouraged all to support the New Unions and to strengthen their role in defending the interest of the workers and improving their conditions. He underlined that there is no contradiction between a diversity of unions and confederations and unity in the class struggle. Omar Shahadeh, conveyed greetings of secretary general of the PFLP Ahmad Saadat and his deputy Ahmad Fuad. He underlined their full support to the New Unions and the establishment of the new confederation  will form a concrete step towards bringing the trade union movement in Palestine back on the right track  and to reinforce the international solidarity with the palestinian people and working class.

Thomas from the Norwegian ‘Workers Mate’ association addressed the congress reiterating their support for the New Unions and promised the Workers Mate will continue support the struggle of the Palestinian people through boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns, including building efforts to boycott the Israeli trade union confederation Histadrut, which historically and up to today has played a key role in supporting and facilitating Israeli policies of discrimination and ethnic cleansing of the PAlestinian people and occupation and colonisation of their land.

Adnan Dagher, a veteran unionist, reminded the congress of the long history of the Palestinian labour movement. He expressed confidence that the New Unions may recover the leading role of the workers struggle and trade unionism within the national movement and may revive the class struggle within Palestine.

Muhammad Bleidi, the secretary general of the New Unions, in his closing remarks thanked everybody that has contributed to the establishment of the New Unions, all those that over the years have dedicated their time and struggle and energies in the long process. Muhammad Bleidi outlined the past and current work of the union to defend workers rights within the factories, at the Israeli workers gates and in the court systems. He reminded everybody of the mission of the union to defend and achieve labour and national rights for the Palestinian working class and its principles of unity, class consciousness and democracy and autonomy.

NewUnions1

At the end of the congress, the Palestine New Federation of Trade Unions elected their new Council comprised of 31 members and the new executive committee comprised of 17 members (four women). Muhammad Bleidi has been reconfirmed in the vote for the secretary general of the union.