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2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Palestine

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 20 November 2008
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Palestine, 20 November 2008, available at: [accessed 11 December 2017]
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: 4,000,000
Capital: (East Jerusalem)
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: Not a member state

Israeli army hostilities and inter-Palestinian factional fighting have made normal life impossible, resulting in protests by workers and attacks on the PGFTU headquarters and attempts to assassinate its leaders. Some public workers' salaries were finally paid, after 17 months in arrears after the international embargo was lifted.

Trade union rights in law

The Palestinian Labour Code entered into force in January 2002. Workers, including public sector employees, are free to establish unions without government authorisation. 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 have the right to organise their own unions in Israel or to join Israeli trade unions.

New trade union law in preparation: 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.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Background: 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 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, rules 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.

After the Hamas victory in the 2006 elections, the economic situation worsened considerably when the United States and the European Union cut off their financial assistance. The new Palestinian Authority was unable to pay the wages of the 160,000 workers in the public sector.

There were strikes and protests in April by government workers as wages were still not paid, until finally in July 2007, after a power-sharing deal was agreed between Hamas and Fatah, the economic embargo was lifted and workers finally received their first full wages in 17 months. However, those workers who report directly to Hamas did not receive their wages.

Six Israeli soldiers wounded workers in a wanton attack on a West Bank factory, and many other workers were killed or received death threats in Palestinian factional fighting.

Assassination attempts on PGFTU leaders and attacks on PGFTU offices: There were several attacks on PGFTU offices and the lives of its leaders during the year by Israeli Defence forces and amid intensifying inter-Palestinian violence between Fatah and Hamas.

Attempts to assassinate PGFTU leaders: In the early hours of 29 January the home in Gaza of Rasem al Bayari, deputy general secretary of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, was partially destroyed by rockets. It was then bombed 24 hours later.

On 6 April, al Bayari was again attacked by masked men when he was driving his family in a car in Gaza. His family escaped, but he was grazed by bullets.

On 10 July, Shaher Sae'd, general secretary of the PGFTU, was taken at gunpoint from a Nablus restaurant by masked men who threatened him in order to force him to resign his trade union position. He refused. He was released 30 minutes later.

PGFTU offices in Gaza bombed: On 2 February, a bomb went off at the PGFTU Headquarters in Gaza, totally destroying the building and the radio station "the Voice of the Workers", which is housed in the building. Fortunately no one was injured.

Worker fired for signing letter demanding minimum wages: In November a worker who signed a letter to the management of the West Bank factory Sol-Or asking for minimum wages was sacked. Ninety Palestinian workers at the Sol-Or factory, which manufactures and markets gas and petrol containers, went on strike, citing dangerous working conditions and low wages. The workers had formed an impromptu union and were asking for a wage rise.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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