PCHR: “International Workers’ Day, Palestinian Workers Continue to Suffer from Israeli Violations of Their Rights and Absence of National Social Protection System”

The Palestinian Center For Human Rights (PCHR)Ref: 51/2022 – Date: 1 May 2022: Time: 10:00 GMT The first of May is celebrated annually worldwide as the International Workers’ Day in appreciation of the struggles of those defending workers’ rights and to advocate for improving workers’ living conditions around the world.

This year, as many before, Workers’ Day is celebrated under Israeli occupation, which continues to violate Palestinian workers’ rights and jeopardize their freedoms, particularly their right to work. The Israeli restrictions on freedom of movement continue to exist across the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, while the illegal closure and collective punishment policies remain effective in the Gaza Strip since 2007.

Moreover, workers suffer due to the absence of a national social protection system that guarantees their rights in all circumstances, particularly in light of the deteriorating economic conditions in Palestine.

There are approximately 1 million workers in Palestine (630,000 in the West Bank, 259,000 in the Gaza Strip, and 145,000 in Israel and Israeli settlements,[1] while the number of unemployed persons increased from 335,000 in 2020 to 372,000 in 2021. Also, the unemployment rate is 47% in the Gaza Strip and 16% in the West Bank.

International Workers’ Day comes this year while thousands of Palestinian workers in Israel suffer due to the Israeli employers’ breaches of their economic and social rights and the Israeli authorities’ oversight towards safety measures at workshops. The rates of work accidents increased at workshops in Israel, particularly falls from heights due to the absence of safety measures as 30 fatalities among Palestinian workers were reported during the last 2 years.[2]

Also, workers suffer fragile economic conditions caused by the arbitrary cancellation of their work permits without any prior warning allegedly for security reasons and emergencies. This pattern of behavior encourages the Israeli employers to curtail workers’ financial rights and not to pay their social benefits.

Moreover, workers face discriminatory practices, particularly the large wage gap between Palestinian and Israeli workers that is nearly fourfold, imposing an extra burden on thousands of Palestinian workers who continue to pay part of their monthly wages to illegal permit brokers.

Also, the Israeli authorities encourage the Israeli employers to violate Palestinian workers’ rights through issuing permits under incorrect categories such as special needs, economic needs, and commercial permits, forcing thousands of workers to work without having any labor rights that are guaranteed by all international laws due to their dire need for money.

Within this policy, Israeli authorities allowed more than 12,000 Palestinian workers from the Gaza Strip to work in Israel after obtaining businessmen-labeled permits, which is part of a policy to deprive Palestinian workers of their social and legal rights.

Furthermore, Palestinian workers’ access to their workplaces in Israel is a lengthy and complicated process, where many of them are forced to leave in the early morning hours (between 03:00 and 05:00) to reach the crossings and wait in a long and crowded queue until the crossings are opened. Thus, it takes between 3 to 5 hours for an average Palestinian worker to reach their workplace, and sometimes many of them are forced to sleep in their workplaces and come back home only on the weekends.

The 2021 Israeli military aggression on the Gaza Strip has deepened the worker’s suffering in the Strip, as over the past years, their economic conditions dramatically declined as a result of repeated Israeli military operations on economic facilities, in addition to the Israeli-imposed closure on the Gaza Strip since 2007.

During the 2021 IOF aggression, at least 5,000 workers lost their jobs after factories, where they worked, were destroyed. Additionally, about 20,000 workers were directly and indirectly affected due to the aggression. The living conditions of dozens of thousands of workers and their families got significantly worse by the disruption of their work during the aggression, which coincided with ‘Eid al-Fitr, a vital economic season. All of this had a substantial impact on daily workers in various sectors.[3]

At the national level, the workers’ living conditions aggravated over the past years with high rates of poverty and unemployment among them, on top of continued violations of their rights due to the laxity in implementation of the Palestinian Labour law.

Furthermore, thousands of workers suffer from the absence of a national social security system, as only public sector workers benefit from social protection benefits in Palestine, while most private sector workers are effectively not covered in case of old age, disability or death, work injuries or maternity. In emergency and crisis situations, there is a need for a national social security system to preserve workers’ dignity and rights.

Furthermore, workers face difficulties accessing their rights as stipulated in the Palestinian Labour law due to the lack of specialized labor courts, the weakness of government policies related to monitoring and inspecting workplaces and workers’ conditions, the failure of some industrial and commercial facilities’ owners to apply controls and restrictions imposed on child Labour or laws regulating women’s work, or others relating to their occupational safety and health.

Also, thousands of workers work in difficult environments that lack the minimum protection and safety conditions, where their right to even receive the legal minimum wage is violated, even though it would not sustain a dignified life for them and their families.

The Palestinian minimum wage ought to be reviewed to be more equitable, especially in light of the deteriorating economic situation and the global wave of inflation that affected Palestine. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the minimum wage in the Gaza Strip is (655 shekels) compared to (1098 shekels) in the West Bank, which is less than the legal minimum wage of (1880), as (81%) of private-sector workers in the Gaza Strip’s workers are paid less than the minimum wage, compared to only (7%) in the West Bank.

On this occasion, PCHR affirms its complete support and solidarity with the Palestinian workers in their ongoing struggle to enjoy their legitimate rights. PCHR fully appreciates their continued pursuit to obtain an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families in light of Israeli violations and the unfavorable economic conditions.

In light of the above, PCHR Calls upon:

  1. The international community to put pressure on Israel to stop its violations against Palestinian workers, and to assume its full responsibilities as an occupying power in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention.
  2. The Palestinian National Authority (PA) to take legislative and administrative measures in compliance with its international obligations after its accession to international conventions and treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to ensure the protection and realization of the right to work for all labour groups, including persons with disabilities.
  3. The Palestinian government to employ and activate the provisions of the Palestinian Labour law and strengthen the powers of oversight and inspection departments over employers, and to ensure workers’ access to their rights codified in law.
  4. The PA to develop a national social security system, as its top legislative priority, to ensure the rights of all groups, including workers, to old-age, disability, death, work injury, and maternity benefits.

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[1] Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), the current status of the Palestinian labour force in 2020, published on 29 April 2021, for more information here

[2] International Labor Organization, the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories, 2021: here

[3] A report issued by PCHR on 28 September 2021, titled: The 2021 Israeli Military Aggression on the Gaza Strip: Economic Sector; see: https://pchrgaza.org/en/israeli-military-aggression-on-the-gaza-strip-economic-sector-destruction/

(Source / 02.05.2022)

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