4 November 2012 / +972mag.com / From factories to farms, labour union champions rights of Palestinians in Israel
Nazareth – Security cameras and a heavy metal door secure the otherwise inconspicuous apartment. This is the office of the Arab Workers Union in Israel (AWU). Photographs of local demonstrations and flags of international trade unions drape the interior walls. Wehbe Badarneh, 43, from the village of Arabah, is the general secretary of the trade union. He prepared coffee over an open gas stove and offered freshly baked pastries. Fadwa Ali, 42, of the village of Kaukab Abu Al-Hija, arrived shortly after. Fadwa is one of the main organizers of the Women’s Platform, an affiliated section of the AWU. We sat down to discuss issues effecting Israeli Palestinian women workers, and the trade union’s related activities.
The AWU in Israel is a young, independent trade union which primarily organizes and defends Palestinians citizens of Israel who work in factories in Nazareth, Haifa and the Galilee, along with women working in agriculture. The trade union is run solely by volunteers and relies on donations from trade unions internationally in order to sustain itself. It runs awareness campaigns to inform Arab workers of their labor rights, organizes them across workplaces, and provides legal representation in labor courts.
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See also the August 2012 report from Kav LaOved (Workers’ Hotline) on “Palestinian Employment in Israel and the Settlements” – available via the AUSPalestine RESOURCES page >>>
The 2012 International Trade Union Confederation’s Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights has been published on the ITUC website. The annual survey provides important information about trade union rights in law, in practice and violations of those rights.
Palestine survey: The exercise of freedom of association remains very difficult for most Palestinian workers, especially in Gaza. One trade union leader was sacked during 2011, while the executive of another replaced.
Israel survey: The enforcement of labour law is weak and breaches of labour law are common. The right to strike is coupled with restrictions. There were several major strikes during the year. The use of court orders forcing workers back to work during a strike continued in 2011. Palestinian workers in Israel, even with permits, are sometimes deprived of their rights. Israeli minorities are sometimes subject to employment-related discrimination.
Access the ITUC Annual Survey on the AUSPalestine RESOURCES page.
26 May 2012: Press release from the 2012 Swedish Trade Union Confederation Congress
Boycott goods from occupied areas
The Swedish Trade Union Confederation supports the Palestinian trade union movement’s calls to boycott Israeli goods from occupied territories. However, the Swedish Trade Union Confederation does not at present advocate a general boycott of Israeli goods. The Swedish Trade Union Confederation shall also work to ensure that capital over which it has control is not invested in Israeli securities. …
Read full article at LO Sweden >>
A new factsheet produced by the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign highlights the impact of the Wall on Palestinian workers…
“The Apartheid Wall has been deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice, yet the international community has done nothing to halt its encroachment on Palestinian land. Palestinian workers and farmers have been the most affected by the ongoing construction of the wall, thus we reach out to trade unions, invoking the best practices of trade union solidarity and internationalism under the tried and true union slogan of ‘an injury to one is an injury to all!’. We implore workers around the world in the spirit of the South African Anti-Apartheid struggle, where trade union solidarity was critical, to raise awareness within their unions and workplaces about the daily violations Palestinian workers and farmers have to endure. Help us expose the companies complicit in the construction of the Apartheid Wall.” Access the Factsheet on the AUSPalestine RESOURCES page.
The 2011 ITUC Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights has been published on the ITUC website. The annual survey provides important information about trade union rights in law, in practice and violations of those rights.
Palestine survey: The exercise of freedom of association or collective bargaining remains very difficult for most Palestinian workers, especially in Gaza. One trade union leader was sacked and another one detained during the year. The law does not yet cover all trade union rights.
Israel survey: Palestinian workers in Israel, even with permits, are often subject to abuse, illegal detentions and deportations while Israeli Arabs are subject to extensive employment-related discrimination. Most employers breach the labour law, and the right to strike is coupled with restrictions. There were still many major strikes during the year, but strikers were retaliated against.
Access the ITUC Annual Survey on the AUSPalestine RESOURCES page.
It is encouraging to see trade unions around the world taking principled stands in support of human rights for all and in active solidarity with the Palestinian people. Over the past month, the UK University & College Union – the largest trade union in its sector – maintained its tradition of support for Palestinian rights by endorsing the Palestinian call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel, and went further to call on peak international union body Education International “to seek similar action by all affiliates”. In Brazil, the new trade union federation, CSP-Conlutas, pledged its endorsement of the Palestinian BDS call, seeking to focus its efforts on Israeli companies operating in Brazil. An Australian chapter of Artists Against Apartheid launched in Sydney in mid-May, endorsing the Palestinian BDS call and seeking to adhere to the PACBI guidelines for an international cultural boycott of Israel. In Palestine, a new Palestine Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS) was launched at a conference on 30 April, which saw a broad front of Palestinian trade unions pledge their support and endorsement of the 2005 BDS call from Palestinian civil society. Former ACTU President and current ITUC General Secretary, Sharan Burrow, celebrated May Day in Palestine this year, joining Palestinian workers and families on a march and rally in Ramallah along with colleagues in the PGFTU. All these articles can be viewed on the AUSPalestine NEWS page.
In April 2011, a delegation of senior UK trade union representatives visited Palestine. Their report was recently published and left little doubt as to the impact of their experiences in Palestine, the delegation stating clearly that they were “deeply concerned about the testimonies and accounts they heard.” The report was unequivocal in its recommendation that “an effective BDS campaign [is] virtually the only viable option for building international pressure to bring about a change in the situation.” Access the UK Trade Union Delegation Statement on the AUSPalestine REPORTS page.
Also recently released is the ILO’s Annual Report on the situation for workers in the occupied Arab territories. According to the report, despite some improvements in the movement of people, no significant change to the better regarding the situation of these workers has taken place during the past year. The report notes that such change cannot take place “unless the restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation, and the occupation itself, are removed.” Access the ILO Annual Report on the AUSPalestine RESOURCES page.
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Tagged academic boycott, Australian trade unions, BDS, boycott divestment sanctions, cultural boycott, ILO, ITUC, PACBI, Palestine, Palestinian trade unions, PGFTU, Sharan Burrow, trade unions