25 July 2013 | via Electronic Intifada

Workers on Israel’s illegal railway robbed of half their pay

Palestinians hired to work on a high-speed train link between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have half their wages taken from them by recruiting agents, an Electronic Intifada investigation has found.

An estimated 200 Palestinians are employed on boring tunnels in the West Bank, as part of the so-called A1 railway, Israel’s largest infrastructure project in a decade. Speaking on condition of anonymity, some of these men have confirmed that they are working under highly exploitative conditions in Beit Iksa, a village near Jerusalem where two tunnels are being dug.

One man from the surrounding area said he had been recruited by someone hired to supply workers to the construction site. The person who recruited him takes over half his earnings. “It is very unfair, for the type of work [I do,] I get half what an Israeli would,” said the worker. “I do not get a visa, or any insurance. Yet I have no choice: to work in a construction site on the other side still pays more than I would get here in the West Bank.”

Another worker said that he receives 250 shekels ($70) per day, out of the 600 shekels ($167) his Israeli recruiter is paid. “I am happy with my employer,” he said. “In my uncle’s shop, I earned 1,500 shekels [$419] for a month but in the tunnel I earn 250 shekels a day. I am forced to work for Israel because I couldn’t earn the same money in Palestine,” he said. “But while I get paid more, I have no insurance; if I’m injured I have no proof — like papers — to say I work there as I’m not registered. I also don’t have a permit to work in Israel.”

Workers also stated that one of their colleagues was electrocuted while working in the tunnel. He was given no money to cover his hospital treatment and was not paid for the time he had to take off as a result of the injury. Although the worker returned to his job after the electrocution, he left soon afterwards, possibly due to a disagreement with his employer.

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