Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2018, 09:04 GMT

2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Palestine

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 11 June 2009
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Palestine, 11 June 2009, available at: [accessed 23 January 2018]
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

Workers have the right to set up and join unions and to collective bargaining, although this is not yet enshrined in law. The blockade of most of Palestine makes industrial activity and thus union organising very difficult. During the year there was a long, bitter strike by civil servants.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association: Palestinian workers, including public sector employees, have the right to establish unions without government authorisation. Collective bargaining rights are also recognised.

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.

The right to strike: This right is recognised, but unions must give two week's advance notice, or four weeks in public utilities. However, the Ministry of Labour can impose arbitration, and trade unions can face disciplinary action if they do not accept the outcome of that arbitration.

New trade union law in preparation: A new trade union law is being drafted 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 it believes many sections violate ILO conventions 87 and 98.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: Gaza has reached a humanitarian crisis with 80% of families relying on humanitarian aid, 95% of Gaza's industrial operations suspended, and unemployment at 50%, it has mostly been impossible for Palestinians to leave Gaza to work in Israel. This is compounded by the political strife in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah, with each side describing any union activity as politically-motivated. Under these circumstances any normal daily exercise of freedom of association or collective bargaining is virtually impossible.

Salaries of public sector employees are frequently delayed as the transfer of funds has to come through Israel, which does not always approve them on time.

Trade union building targeted in Gaza: On 28 February, the PGFTU headquarters were destroyed by two Israeli rockets. According to Nabil al-Mabhouh, acting PGFTU head, the building was targeted because the PGFTU is supporting the rights of tens of thousands of Palestinian workers.

On 26 June the house of PGFTU member Fathi Nasser was surrounded by military vehicles, then soldiers opened fire and destroyed the house.

Palestinian worker assaulted by Israeli soldiers: Fawwaz Amarna, was beaten at a checkpoint near Ramallah on 11 March, and had to be treated at Thabit hospital. He is known as a labour activist and member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).

Government threatens to stop pay during strike: On 4 April, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said he would dock civil servants' pay for every day that they participated in their strike. It was claimed by some government members that the strike was politically motivated, but Civil Servants' Union leader Bassam Zakarneh said the government move to stop paying the strikers was illegal. Despite this, the Civil Servants Union continued the strike of teachers, doctors, nurses and other government staff to the end of 2008.

Striking teachers threatened with the sack: On 25 August the Minister of Education in Gaza threatened to replace teachers on strike, allegedly for being called by a pro-Fatah teachers' union. The teachers were protesting against discrimination against non-Hamas members in hiring. About 80% of the teachers went on strike. There were fist-fights at the Fatah-linked al-Azhar University, as the union said Hamas forces had taken over the union offices.

On 6 September, Security services in the Gaza Strip forcibly dispersed a sit-in. The de facto government's Ministry of the Interior said the sit-in was illegal as it did not have a permit. The teachers were trying to draw attention to the dangers imposed on education because of the political situation.

On 14 October, the government said it would not allow striking teachers to return to work, and the Deputy Education Minister said legal action would be taken against them. On 20 October 1,000 striking teachers were detained, their vehicles confiscated and their children prevented from going to school. The teachers were held in prison and at government buildings for several hours before being released.

300 teachers in Gaza fired: 300 teachers from the Workers Union in the Gaza Strip were fired by the Palestinian Authority on "security recommendations". Most of the teachers who were appointed after 2006 have not received their salaries. It appears the sacking is related to political affiliation.

Security forces arrest striking health workers in Gaza: On 3 September security forces arrested a number of striking doctors and other employees of hospitals in the Gaza Strip and took them to Al-Mashtal prison, where they were beaten. Those arrested and beaten were Maysarah Fayyad, a nurse at Mubarak Hospital, Dr Kamal An-Namlah, head of surgeons at Nasser Hospital, Dr Abdul-Halim Al-Masri, from Ash-Shifa Hospital, and Wisam Karim, Usamah As-Sa'idi and Muhammad Lafi from Muhammad Ad-Durrah Hospital.

The health workers had been objecting to Hamas' action in firing at least 50 doctors and administrators whom they said were Fatah supporters.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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