News 2011 (January-June)

8 June 2011 (Britain): Keep boycotting Israel say delegates
Community Union delegates delivered a crushing blow today to the executive’s attempt to force through a resolution aimed at undermining the TUC policy of boycotting Israeli goods produced in illegal settlements. Members at the union’s biennial conference in Southport accused the leadership of using it to obtain a “retrospective mandate” from members to support Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine (TULIP), which they labelled “an apologist” for Israeli war crimes. TULIP was co-founded by the Community Union’s general secretary Michael Leahy in 2009 to challenge what he labelled “apologists for Hamas” in the labour movement.
[AUSPalestine editor note: TULIP’s other two founding unions were the Australian Workers Union and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (USA)]

3 June 2011 (Britain): University and College Union (UCU) passes key motions
At its annual congress on 29-30 May the UCU, which is the largest trade union and professional association for academics, lecturers, trainers, researchers and academic-related staff working in further and higher education throughout the UK, maintained its tradition of support for Palestinian rights and pressure on Israel to abide by international law by passing key motions endorsing the PACBI call for academic and cultural boycott of Israel.  The UCU motion also called on peak body, Education International, “to seek similar action by all affiliates.”

27 May 2011 (Brazil): Brazilian union CSP-Conlutas endorses BDS
In an open letter to the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the CSP-Conlutas union federation in Brazil endorsed the Palestinian BDS campaign and pledged “we are working on the BDS campaign denouncing the Free Trade Agreement and the presence of Israeli companies operating in Brazil like Elbit Systems and Strauss Coffee.”

16 May 2011 (Australia): Artists Against Apartheid launches in Australia
A creative workshop on a didgeridoo at a Palestine conference in Sydney saw the launch of the Australian chapter of Artists Against Apartheid, an international alliance committed to human rights and justice for the Palestinian people.

4 May 2011 (Palestine): Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS)
In commemoration of the first of May – a day of workers’ struggle and international solidarity – the first Palestinian trade union conference for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel (BDS) was held in Ramallah on 30 April 2011, organized by almost the entirety of the Palestinian trade union movement, including federations, professional unions, and trade union blocks representing the entire spectrum of Palestinian political parties. The conference marked a historic event: the formation of the Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS) as the largest coalition of the Palestinian trade union movement. PTUC-BDS will provide the most representative Palestinian reference for international trade unions, promoting their support for and endorsement of the BDS Call, launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005, guided by the guidelines and principles adopted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), of which PTUC-BDS has become a key component. The conference:
■Cordially salutes all global trade unions for their solidarity with the Palestinian people, especially those that have endorsed BDS against Israel,
■Calls on trade unions around the world to actively show solidarity with the Palestinian people by implementing creative and context-sensitive BDS campaigns as the most effective way to end Israeli impunity. For example by:
■boycotting Israeli and international companies (such as Elbit, Agrexco, Veolia, Alstom, Caterpillar, Northrop Grumman, etc.) and institutions that are complicit with Israel’s occupation and violations of international law,
■reviewing pension fund investments with the purpose of divesting from Israel Bonds and all Israeli and international companies and institutions complicit in Israel’s occupation, colonization and apartheid,
■pressuring governments to suspend Free Trade Agreements, end arms trade and military relations with Israel with the intention of eventually cutting all diplomatic ties with it,
■Calls on port workers around the world to boycott loading/offloading Israeli ships, similar to the heroic step taken by port workers around the world in suspending maritime trade with South Africa in protest against the apartheid regime, and
■Calls on trade unions around the world to review and sever all ties with the Histadrut.
Such non-violent measures of accountability must continue until Israel fulfils its obligations under international law in acknowledging the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination, and fully complies with international law by:
■Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied since 1967 (including East Jerusalem), as well as dismantling of the illegal wall and colonies,
■Recognizing the fundamental right of the Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equity, as well as ending the system of racial discrimination against them, and
■Respecting, protecting and supporting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UNGA Resolution 194.
The Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS) is the broadest and most representative body of the Palestinian trade union movement and includes the following organisations: General Union of Palestinian Workers, Federation of Independent Trade Unions (IFU), General Union of Palestinian Women, Union of Palestinian Professional Associations (comprising the professional syndicates of Engineers, Physicians, Pharmacists, Agricultural Engineers, Lawyers, Dentists and Veterinarians), General Union of Palestinian Teachers, General Union of Palestinian Peasants and Co-ops, General Union of Palestinian Writers, Union of Palestinian Farmers, Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE), Union of Public Employees in Palestine-Civil Sector; and all of the trade union blocks that make up the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU): Central Office for the Workers Movement, Progressive Labor Union Front, Workers Unity block, Progressive Workers Block, Workers solidarity organization, Workers Struggle Block, workers resistance block, Workers Liberation Front, Union of Palestinian Workers Struggle Committees, National Initiative (al-Mubadara) Block.

Sharan Burrow and Shaher Sa'ed
Sharan Burrow and Shaher Sa’ed

May Day 2011 (Palestine): Sharan Burrow joins union march
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow joined Palestinian workers and their families at the Palestinian trade union centre PGFTU’s march and rally in Ramallah, to support their demand for a minimum wage, social protection, labour law reform and the setting up of labour courts to tackle exploitation. “These matters are crucial to the development of a viable and vibrant economy, and action on these must go hand in hand with the building of a free, independent and sovereign State of Palestine,” she said. “This May Day, workers across the world have taken heart from the courage of working people in the Arab countries, and I feel immensely privileged to be able to share in this moment with my Palestinian colleagues.”

20 April 2011 (Scotland): Trade unions call to isolate Histadrut
At its congress in Ayr, the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) voted to condemn the Israeli Histadrut and declared its continued commitment to the campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel, following blistering attacks on the Histadrut from the floor of the annual conference. The Firefighters’ union moved a strong motion of support for Palestinians’ call for the international boycott of Israel. FBU Scotland Organiser, Jim Malone, expressed delegates’ disgust of Histadrut’s complicity with Israel’s crimes. Read more about the Scottish TUC.

19 April 2011 (International): Unions, academics, political and cultural figures write to Marrickville Council in support of BDS policy
The South African trade union federation, COSATU, and South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) have signed an open letter in support of Marrickville Council’s December decision to endorse the Palestinian BDS call.  Due to excessive public pressure, Marrickville Council (in Sydney, Australia) is now under enormous pressure to rescind their principled decision.

17 April 2011 (Palestine): PGFTU reaffirms call for boycott
A statement from PGFTU General Secretary, Mr Shaher Sa’ed, clarifying the misrepresentation of PGFTU statements: “Mr Saed has confirmed that the relationship between the PGFTU and the Histadrut is one of unequals. We live under an Israeli military occupation while trying to defend the rights of our Palestinians workers… We, in the PGFTU, call on all international organisations and trade unions not to use the relationship between the PGFTU and the Histadrut to justify establishing relationships with the Israeli occupation and its institutions that contribute towards strengthening the occupation.”

15 April 2011 (Palestine): Unions salute Scottish stance
The Palestinian trade union movement, as a key component of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), salutes the Scottish Congress of Trade Unions for their principled and historic decision in April 2009 to heed the Palestinian civil society call for BDS. We also deeply appreciate the STUC decision of 2010 to review relations with Israel’s racist and colonial trade union entity, Histadrut, and hope that this year’s congress will decide to sever links with the Histadrut as a logical implementation of your principled adoption of BDS. The Histadrut, as the definitive record shows, is a Zionist organization that has always played a key role in perpetuating Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of racial discrimination…..  We, the Palestinian trade union movement, including almost the entirety of the blocks that make up the PGFTU, reiterate the BNC’s call of 2009 for severing links with the Histadrut, as our best hope to end Israel’s grave violations against our workers and people, until we attain our inalienable, UN-sanctioned rights, especially our right to self-determination. Signed by the following PGFTU members, who make up almost the entirety of the PGFTU executive: Central Office for the Workers Movement (Fatah), Workers Unity block, Progressive Labor Union Front, Workers Struggle Block, Workers Liberation Front, Progressive Workers Block, Workers Solidarity Organization, & the additional unions and organisations: General Union of Palestinian Workers, Federation of Independent Trade Unions (IFU), Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE), General Union of Palestinian Peasants and Co-op Groups,  Union of Palestinian Farmers, Union of Public Employees in Palestine – Civil Sector, Union of UNRWA Employees in Palestine, General Union of Palestinian Writers, General Union of Palestinian Teachers, Palestinian Professionals Association.

11 April 2011 (Palestine): No cooking gas for Gaza, say unions
Mahmoud Al-Shawa, director of the Gaza Gas Station Owners Union, declared that the Gaza strip completely lacks cooking gas due to the shutting down by [Israeli] occupying authorities of the only commercial crossing that provides Gaza with essential goods and commodities… Al-Shawa mentioned that the gas that Israel sells to Gaza at astonishing prices is the same gas Israel imports cheaply from Egypt.

29 March 2011 (Palestine): Unions demonstrate for wages
The Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions ran a large demonstartion around wage demands outside the Legislative Assembly in Ramallah.

23 March 2011 (South Africa): University of Johannesburg ends Israel links
A landmark victory was achieved today in South Africa for the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign of Israel. Setting a worldwide precedent for the academic boycott of Israel, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has decided to sever ties with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University (BGU).
[View report on PACBI site]

15 March 2011 ( Norway): Norwegian telecomms union adopts BDS
The Norwegian EL & IT union, which represents over 30,000 energy and telecommunications workers, has adopted BDS and called for a boycott of the Israeli trade union federation, the Histadrut. [statement in English]

13 March 2011 (South Africa): COSATU supports call to end relations with Israeli university
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) fully supports its affiliate NEHAWU in calling on the University of Johannesburg (UJ) to terminate any relationship with the Israel’s Ben Gurion University (BGU).

11 March 2011 (Gaza Strip, Palestine): Gaza truckers protest Israel’s closure of commercial crossing
On 2 March Israel announced the complete closure of Karni, the principal commercial crossing into the Gaza Strip, prompting protests by Palestinian traders who rely on the crossing to bring goods into the territory… The Gaza Strip has four crossings through which vital supplies can be brought in from Israel — Sufa, Nahal Oz, Kerem Shalom and Karni. Only Kerem Shalom, a small crossing located right at the south of Gaza, is allowed by Israel to function to capacity.

11 March 2011 (Gaza Strip, Palestine): Union suspends strike at Gaza crossing
Gaza’s transport workers union decided Thursday to suspend the strike at Kerem Shalom crossing for two weeks. Truck drivers have held a sit-in at the crossing since Sunday to demand the reopening of Karni crossing, Gaza’s only bulk goods terminal.

10 March 2011 (Israel): Histadrut leader says boycott movement against Israel is “doing a good job all over the world”
Ofer Eini, chairman of the Histadrut labor federation, told Jewish leaders in New York on Wednesday not to underestimate the power of the BDS boycott movement, and pledged to speak as often as possible to combat its efforts to sow anti-Israel sentiment among international unions… Eini said that the BDS movement against Israel is “doing a good job all over the world,” citing its efforts at the International Trade Union Confederation last June in Vancouver as illustrative of the scope of its reach.

8 March 2011 (South Africa): Public sector union supports calls to end relations with Israeli university
NEHAWU, South Africa’s largest public sector union, has thrown its support behind a call from students, academics and numerous prominent individuals, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, for the University of Johannesburg to terminate its apartheid-era relationship with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University (BGU): “The union, mindful of our own country’s history and the role that international solidarity played in ending South Africa’s apartheid regime, is convinced that all of us in this country have a particular responsibility to take seriously the struggles of others who face similar conditions of racial oppression and economic exploitation that we have known.”

7 March 2011 (West Bank, Palestine): Women workers rally for International Women’s Day
According to today’s media statement by the Palestine General Federation of  Trade Unions (PGFTU), 300 women demonstrated in Ramallah for a new minimum wage and for social protection. The women’s department of PGFTU organised a  rally at the Prime Minster’s office to hand over a memorandum and to call for a definition of the minimum wages and confirmation of  the social protection system.  The General Secretary of the PGFTU, Brother Shaher Sa’ed, was in the front of the demonstration  to support working women in their demands. Many of the executive members of PGFTU, heads of the unions, the women committees from all regions in Palestine took part. Sa’ed said “We want a country that respects women”, and promoted the campaign for a minimum wage, launched in January by the PGFTU. On behalf of the PGFTU Brother Sae’d submitted a  memorandum to Prime Minister Dr. Salam Fayyad , with all the demands of the women workers:
1. Define the minimum wages  and confirm the social protection system, noting that working women are the first victims of declining wages.
2. Enhance equality and to stop all kinds of discrimination.
3. Increase the percentage of the women in the labor market through the creation of decent work opportunities.
4. Enhance all aspects of the mainstreaming of gender.
5. Activate the juridical system and establish specialist labour courts  for work disputes.
6. Observe and monitor the implementation of health and safety measures to for working women.
[Palestine News reports on women’s rally in Ramallah]
[Ma’an News Agency reports on women’s rallies in Palestine]

6 March 2011 (Gaza Strip, Palestine): Gaza truck drivers on strike
The Gaza Truck Drivers Union have called an indefinite strike. They are protesting against Israel’s permanent closure on 2 March of the Karni commercial crossing in the north of the Gaza Strip. This leaves the Keram Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing in the southern Gaza Strip as the only way for limited goods to get in and out of Gaza.  Citing increased logistics costs and lack of capacity at the Kerem Shalom crossing, the union is demanding the re-opening of the Karni crossing. Since 2007, Israel has now permanently closed three of the four commercial trade crossings into Gaza, in violation of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access.

7 February 2011 (Brazil): Largest Brazilian Trade Union backs Boycott
In an important gain for the global movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, Brazil’s largest trade union confederation – the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (English: Unified Workers’ Central), commonly known by the acronym CUT – voiced its support of the BDS call and called for the suspension of Israeli-Brazilian economic agreements and military ties on January 28, 2011.

30 January 2011 (Australia): Fire Brigades Union writes letter to Israeli Ambassador condemning treatment of Palestinian firefighters
The NSW State Secretary of the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union, Mr Jim Casey, has made public his union’s recent letter notifying the Israeli Ambassador of his union’s formal resolution condemning Israel’s actions in December in refusing entry permits to Palestinian firefighters to receive their honour medals for their work in assisting their Israeli colleagues to fight the Carmel bushfires.

18 January 2011 (Australia): ASU NSW supports Marrickville Council
The Australian Services Union New South Wales Branch has forwarded a letter to the councillors of Marrickville Council applauding their decision to join the Global Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign as a means of “peaceful resistance and protest.”  Union Secretary, Sally McManus, stated in her letter “we have many members who live in the Marrickville area and I am very confident that they would support the actions of the Council… The ASU stands with you in the fight.”

17 January 2011 (Australia): NSW Construction Union (CFMEU) supports Marrickville Council
Marrickville councillors, in Sydney’s inner west, who voted 10-2 to adopt a policy of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel have been receiving death threats from anti-Arab racists. The NSW CFMEU has issued a leaflet supporting the councillors’ decision to choose boycott as a tool of peaceful resistance, stating “it is important that we support democratic process and, among other things, defend the rights of councils and other bodies to take principled stands.”

14 January 2011 (International): UNI Global Union joins the boycott call
Phillip Jennings, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, urges UNI affiliates to join the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions at the UNI World Congress:  “The settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal. The businesses in the settlements are illegal. The Palestinian Authority have decided to withdraw permits to Palestinians to work there. They have a campaign with the Palestinian people not to buy products made in those settlements. The motion before you urges affiliates to support this campaign.”
The 3rd World Congress of UNI Global Union held in November 2010, passed a strong resolution stating unequivocally: “UNI recognises that economic relations with the [Israeli] settlements help to sustain their existence, in violation of international law. UNI calls upon its affiliates to urge employers to stop doing business with companies who profit from the settlements, that are all illegal.”

11 January 2011 (Israel): Israeli academics join academic boycott of settlement university
Some 155 university and college faculty members in Israel have signed a petition calling for an academic boycott of the Ariel University Center. The signatories state that Ariel was an illegal settlement whose existence contravened international law and the Geneva Convention. The lecturers state their “unwillingness to take part in any type of academic activity taking place in the college operating in the settlement of Ariel.” Furthermore, the petition states that “Ariel is not part of the sovereign state of Israel, and therefore it is impossible to require us to appear there.”

7 January 2011 (Canada): Ontario teachers launch petition for their pension plan to divest from Israeli companies
Members of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) are calling for the Plan to divest from specific companies that contribute to Israeli apartheid, and for the Plan to become a responsible investor.

2 January 2011 (Palestine): Two years after Gaza massacre, a demand for justice
In an open letter signed from “Besieged Gaza, Palestine, 27 December 2010″, numerous Palestinian trade unions, workers’ committees, community groups and associations in Gaza have demanded “enough inaction, enough discussion, enough waiting – the time is now to hold Israel to account for its ongoing crimes against us… As in the global BDS movement that was so effective in ending the apartheid South African regime, we urge people of conscience to join the BDS call made by over 170 Palestinian organizations in 2005.”

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View AUSPalestine NEWS HISTORY:

AUSPalestine News 2010 (July-December)

AUSPalestine News 2010 (January-June)

AUSPalestine News 2009