27 November 2019, WAC-MAAN
The workers at R. S. Marketing and Food Production (also known as Rejwan) joined the trade union WAC-MAAN last September and they seek to negotiate a collective agreement guaranteeing a raise in salary and improved working conditions.
With the support and leadership of WAC-MAAN, the workers—all citizens of the Palestinian Authority—started a two-day strike on Monday, November 25. They are protesting against management’s refusal to recognize WAC-MAAN (henceforth WAC) as their representative union, as well as its refusal to negotiate a collective agreement with WAC and their representatives. Already in mid-September, WAC notified management that 46 of the plant’s 50 workers had joined it, thus making it the representative organization according to law. Nevertheless, management stands by its refusals.
At the start of November, WAC proclaimed a labor dispute and informed management that the workers would strike. Prior to the strike, WAC notified management that the strike would be meant as a warning, that it would last two days, and that on November 27 the workers would return to their jobs in good order. WAC made it clear that the workers prefer the path of negotiation, and that as soon as Rejwan announces recognition of WAC and begins the talks, all steps against it would be stopped.
The strike came after a meeting between the representatives of management and the workers on November 19, did not result in an agreement. The company’s lawyers presented in the meeting their reasons for refusing to recognize WAC and although these explanations seemed baseless, WAC and the workers decided to give the plant until November 24. In the absence of any progress, however, the workers and the union had no choice but to proclaim a strike.
Salaries at Rejwan are low, the monthly average for a 208 hours of work is about NIS 4000 (close to NIS 20 per hour – while the minimum wage in Israel is NIS 29.12 per hour). There is a very little compensation for travel and the transfer of funds to the pension plan is lower as result of the low wages. The workers also complain about lack of transparency in registering the hours they’ve put in (the registering is done by hand), and they often come across “mistakes” on their pay slips.
A member of the Workers Council, Muhammad Hamudah Abu Nizar, explains: “We demand our right to a salary and fair job conditions according to law. We are convinced that we shall get them through our membership in WAC and through a signed collective agreement. We believe that management’s entry into negotiations with us and WAC will result in a solution to our problems, bringing an advantage not just to us, but also to the production process and to the plant. We are united in our support for WAC, and we’re certain that together we shall get our rights.”