5+ – No guarantee of rights due to breakdown of the rule of law
The ITUC Global Rights Index


The ITUC affiliate in Palestine is the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU).

Palestine was recognised for the first time as a non-member observer state by the UN in November 2012 (Resolution 67/19) and has developed bilateral relationships with more than 130 governments.
However, despite an on and off long-term peace process, a two-state solution, guaranteeing the coexistence of Israel and Palestine as two sovereign states has not been achieved yet.
The continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the existence of illegal Israeli settlements there and their impacts on the lives of Palestinians including their access to water, along with the blockade of Gaza, impose severe constraints on the potential for Palestinian economic and social development and make many Palestinian workers dependent on precarious work in the settlements.

In practice

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Green Net Recycling and Waste Treatment Plant uses the cover of COVID-19 to attack workers’ rights16-04-2021

A waste sorting plant for the city of Jerusalem operating in the Atarot settlement industrial zone undermined workers’ rights. Some 110 of its Palestinian workers joined Maan Union to fight against exploitative working conditions.
Employers used financial constraints imposed by COVID-19 to weaken workers’ unionising efforts. Dozens of workers have been forced to take leave of absence without pay, others were to stay on the factory grounds without appropriate arrangements if they were to keep their jobs, and nine workers were fired, including union leaders.

The Israeli permit system used to discipline workers who attempt to form a union16-04-2021

Palestinians’ access to work in Israel and the illegal settlements is tightly controlled through a repressive permit system, security checks and checkpoints. Only Palestinians with valid work permits can be “legally” employed by Israeli businesses. In 2019, out of the estimated 133,000 Palestinian workers in Israel and the illegal settlements, roughly 94,000 had a work permit. The overwhelming majority (99%) of permit holders are men, and most work in the construction sector.
Permits are issued for the duration of up to six months but can be arbitrarily annulled at any time by employers or Israel’s security services. Employers use the threat of annulling permits to discipline workers who join unions, demand rights or are involved in any form of political activity.

Palestinian workers’ rights trampled 16-04-2021

The occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) has persistently suffered from “depression-level unemployment” caused by Israel’s prolonged military occupation and imposed economic policies. In 2019, unemployment levels reached 25% (54% in the besieged Gaza Strip and 15% in the occupied West Bank), and underutilisation levels were even higher (33%). Those in work are employed in precarious conditions, with long working hours, low pay and a lack of social protection. In the private sector, where 62.1% of the oPt’s workforce are employed (64.1% in the West Bank and 56.6% in Gaza), some 30% of workers receive a monthly wage that is less than the US$428.79 minimum wage. Private sector workers also lack social protection, with only 30% having access to full social rights. The dependency of Palestinians on the Israeli job market renders them acutely vulnerable to wide ranging exploitation.

Severe obstacles to freedom of association in Palestine24-01-2020

In its latest report, the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PFGTU) denounced a host of violations of the right to freedom of association. Anti-union discrimination against workers and their representatives is frequent. Recently, the president of the Union of Dar Al-Shifa, Ahmad Samhan, was fired, while the head of the Agricultural Union, Abdul Karim Dweikat, was dismissed from the oil factory because of his trade union activity.

Employers often interfere in trade union affairs. At the Cedar Ice Cream Factory, for example, the employer interfered in the operation of the labour committee and incited workers to defect from the union. In the Gaza strip, the employer attempted to interfere during the election of the Mobile Workers Union Council.

Employers also refuse to negotiate with representative unions as was the case in 2019 in the dairy factory Jibreeni and in some textile factories in Nablus. They also avoid collective bargaining by negotiating directly with the workers, for example at Anabtawi Company and at the One Thousand and One Nights Restaurant. The management of the Electricity Company prevented the union from carrying out its activities and flatly refused to negotiate with the union.

PFGTU also reported that Red Crescent workers’ efforts to organise and defend their rights, notably through legitimate and peaceful protests, are constantly thwarted by the authorities. One of their strikes organised in 2019 was brutally broken down by the police. More generally, in the Gaza strip, strike actions are effectively prevented by the authorities, especially in the health and education sectors.

Anti-union discrimination01-03-2013

In March 2013, the Deputy Minister of Education Muhammad Abu Zeid announced that teachers who participate in a strike will be subjected to a special schedule to make up for lesson time lost in strikes.

Travel ban imposed on union leaders28-02-2013

On 28 February 2013, 28 union representatives were prevented from travelling via Rafah International Crossing Point to a series of meeting held by the Executive Committee of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions under the auspices of the ILO in Egypt. The Internal Security Service said that the union representatives were not permitted to travel.

Difficulties for Palestinians working in areas under Israeli labour laws31-12-2010

Some 22,000 Palestinians work in Israeli settlements in construction, agriculture, manufacturing and service industries with another estimated 10,000 working informally. In 2010 it was reported that the Palestinian Authorities (PA) announced a ban prohibiting Palestinians from working in West Bank settlements as part of a wider campaign that included a national boycott of settlements. However, the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) stated that they would not stop workers from working in settlements until the PA could provide alternative employment.

Palestinians working in these areas were employed under Jordanian labour law until 2007 when a court ruled that Israeli law applied equally to both Israeli and Palestinian workers, thus affording Palestinians the same conditions. However, the law is not often enforced, is poorly monitored and in the event of abuse, it is very difficult for Palestinian workers to obtain redress and take a case to court. In many instances employers continue to pay Palestinian workers less than the Israeli minimum wage, and they work in poor health and safety conditions. While the legal minimum wage in Israel is approximately USD 5.50 an hour, Palestinians in settlements earn USD 2 an hour or less. Increasingly children are also found working in settlements, often in construction with poor safety conditions and no insurance.

Discrimination hinders organising of women workers30-11-2009

Women workers receive some 60% of the wages of their male counterparts, and wages are the lowest in sectors that are predominantly female, such as agriculture and services. Security issues, legislative discrimination and cultural issues deter more women from entering the labour force. Women make up less than 15% of employees in the Palestinian labour market according to the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), and most of them are unorganised.

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