15 June 2019, Workers Advice Centre (WAC-MAAN)
The independent trade union center WAC-MAAN releases a comprehensive report summarising ten years of struggle to organise Palestinian workers in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank
The report released today by WAC-MAAN overviews ten years of trade union activities with Palestinian workers in Israeli settlements, particularly the Mishor Adumim area east of Jerusalem. The report was presented on 13 June 2019 during the WAC-MAAN conference at Confederation House in Jerusalem. Among the participants were dozens of workers who led the groundbreaking unionizing drives at Zarfati Garage, NA Metal Industries and Laundry Geula, and a panel of speakers that included WAC-MAAN’s director Assaf Adiv who wrote the report, Advocate Khaled Douchi from Kav Laoved (Workers Hotline), Mr Abd Al Karim Saadi from B’Tselem, and researcher Ethan Morton Jerome.
Some 30,000 Palestinians are employed in the Israeli settlements and nearby industrial zones. They are employed in industries, workshops, construction, agriculture, services, gardening and trade, under exploitative conditions. Their jobs are dependent on obtaining a work permit, and many receive no wage slips, are not covered by workplace accident insurance, receive few benefits such as pension contributions or sick pay, get paid less than the minimum wage, and have no employment security.
This situation has not changed significantly despite the precedent-setting High Court ruling of 2007 (Givat Ze’ev), which determined that Palestinians working for Israeli employers are covered by Israeli labor law and thus entitled to all benefits stipulated by such law. Most employers in these areas simply ignore the ruling. The high unemployment rate in the Palestinian Authority (PA) areas and the low wages paid by Palestinian employers compel Palestinians to make every effort to keep their jobs even if this means accepting harsh employment terms.
The WAC-MAAN report is comprised of three sections:
- The first overviews the history of the settlement industrial zones in this region, the results of the Oslo Accords, the economic situation of the Palestinian territories, and differences between wages in these areas and those in the Israeli labour market.
- The second section discusses the High Court ruling of 2007 and its impact on the ground.
- The third section describes WAC-MAAN’s efforts to unionise Palestinian workers in these zones, both the successful and the unsuccessful, from Salit Quarries in 2009 to the collective agreement in Zarfati Garage, signed after four years of struggle. (It is significant that in the recent period WAC-MAAN has started two important efforts at collective negotiations with new employers in Mishor Adumim zone that are not included in the current report.)
The report is unique in its coverage of the work WAC-MAAN has been doing on the ground for years. The fact that the establishment of Israeli settlements in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 is against international law does not solve the question of how to prevent the exploitation and violation of rights of thousands of workers employed in these settlements. It should be noted that Palestinian unions and organisations are physically and legally prevented from acting here due to Israel’s complete control over the territories, while Israeli unions show no interest in unionising Palestinians who live under Israeli occupation.
WAC-MAAN’s decision to unionise Palestinian workers in the Israeli settlements reflects its commitment to a democratic agenda of equality and to the struggle to end the Israeli occupation. WAC-MAAN believes that Palestinian workers, who face discrimination and exploitation, are entitled to human and workers’ rights regardless of the political arrangements regarding the conflict and regardless of the future of the occupied territories.