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2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Palestine

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2007
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Palestine, 9 June 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca1528.html [accessed 30 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 3,800,000
Capital: (East Jerusalem)
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: Not a member state

Increasing hostilities with the Israeli army and inter-Palestinian violence have aggravated the social and economic crisis in the Occupied Territories, making it impossible to exercise trade union rights. After receiving no salaries for several months, public sector employees began an unlimited strike, which some of them were still continuing at the end of the year.

Trade union rights in law

The Palestinian Labour Code entered into force in January 2002. Workers are free to establish unions without government authorisation, including public sector employees. Collective bargaining rights are also recognised.

The Labour Law provides for the right to strike with two weeks advance notice, or four weeks in public utilities. The Ministry of Labour can impose arbitration, however, and trade unions can face disciplinary action if they do not accept the outcome of that arbitration.

Israeli labour law governs Palestinians working in Jerusalem. They are free to form their own unions. They may also belong simultaneously to unions affiliated with West Bank federations and to the Israeli Histadrut Labour Federation.

Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who work in Israel are not permitted to organise their own unions in Israel although they have the right to join Israeli trade unions. Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who work in Israel have the right to organise their own unions in Israel or to join Israeli trade unions. However, Palestinian trade unions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are not permitted to carry out trade union activities in Israel.

Trade union rights in practice

A new trade union law is under preparation, and includes the institutional framework for industrial relations. While the organisation of unions is still being discussed within the law's framework, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) has rejected the draft because they believe many sections violate ILO Conventions 87 and 98.

The lack of a legal and institutional framework for industrial relations means that social dialogue and tripartite activities are sporadic. In addition, the dramatic rise in violence in the occupied territories makes it almost impossible to carry out any effective trade union activity. Palestinians' movements within and between the occupied territories are restricted by an ever tighter and more complex set of barriers and permits. Any normal daily exercise of freedom of association, involving contacts and communication between trade unions and their branches, and between the various local bodies has been rendered impossible by these restrictions on movement, according to the members of an ILO mission in 2006, who sometimes had to use phone or video links to contact Palestinian trade unionists and employers.

Violations in 2006

Background: After the victory of Hamas in the January elections, the economic situation worsened considerably. The United States and the European Union cut off their financial assistance. The new Palestinian Authority soon became unable to pay the wages of the 160,000 workers in the public sector. On 2 September, following various warning actions and after the Israeli army had withdrawn from the Gaza Strip, the unions began an unlimited strike. The teachers went back to work in November, as did nursing staff in December, but at the end of December the other categories of public sector workers remained on strike. The victims of the Israeli army included many workers.

Authorities seek to discredit unions during public sector strike: The unions came under attack from the authorities, which criticised what they regarded as a "political strike" orchestrated by Fatah to destabilise the new government. The unions rejected those accusations, stressing that their members had not received any wages since the start of the year and were facing very serious financial problems.

Armed assault on PGFTU office in Gaza: On 12 October in Gaza, a group of masked men entered a building housing the local PGFTU office and its radio station. They first threw a grenade, injuring four people, and then set fire to the offices. The attack came as the inter-Palestinian violence between Fatah and Hamas was intensifying.

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