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Palestine and Israel: increased union cooperation and solidarity

29 May, 2017An IndustriALL mission to Palestine and Israel on 15 to 18 May, aimed to show support and solidarity with affiliates and to discuss cooperation.

The visit in Palestine covered a lot of ground with the PGFTU, Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions and IndustriALL affiliates in metal, mechanical engineering, petrochemical, textile and electricity sectors.

In addition to the affiliates’ meeting, the mission included visits at checkpoints, plants, refugee camp, meeting with Minister of Labour and observations the Separation Wall, settlements and industrial zones around Nablus, Ramallah and Qalqilya. An industrial exhibition in Nablus also provided an opportunity to meet with Palestinian entrepreneurs.

At a press conference in Nablus, Shaher Saeed, PGFTU general secretary said:

This international solidarity visit from IndustriALL Global Union is important for us.

IndustriALL's Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan said:

Together with the global union movement, IndustriALL re-affirms its commitment for a fair, lasting and immediate peace consistent with United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338. A two state solution is essential for long term peace.

Özkan also referred to the 2014 ITUC Congress Statement, which denounces the occupation of Palestine, and pledges to mobilize for a just and sustainable peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, in accordance with international law.

The mission observed frustration, disappointment and despair due to the delayed peace process. The construction of new settlements increases tension. Economic activities and working conditions in the settlements were identified as important problems. In the international community, there is an increasing trend to support actions impeding the expansion of illegal settlements and to restrict access to financial support when used for their growth.

The economic and social conditions for Palestinian workers are quite harsh in the West Bank and Gaza. Mamoun A. Abushahla, Ministor of Labour of Palestine, particularly referred to difficulties for those living in Palestine and working in Israel. According to his report, 140,000 people work behind the green line; 50,000 with permits while the overwhelming majority rest is employed illegally and lacks protection.

New trade union legislation is under way, with the support of the International Labor Organization (ILO). IndustriALL Global Union expressed its support for this important development based on demands from PGFTU.

At the end of the mission, it was agreed with affiliates that IndustriALL will continue its support in capacity building, union growth, and encourage broader participation in IndustriALL’s campaigns and actions. The affiliates decided to create a national affiliates’ council under the auspices of PGFTU, focusing especially on women and youth networks and social protection.

In Israel, IndustriALL met with the General Organisation of Workers in the Land of Israel (Histadrut), who were preparing to elect a new presidency. The Histadrut president is directly elected by the rank-and-file-membership, and these elections are the second largest elections in the country after the general elections.

Established in 1920, before the state of Israel was founded, Histadrut supports the peace process and promotes co-existence in the region. The organization supports workers across all communities in Israel and fight for their rights. Histadrut believes that a two-state solution, Israel and Palestine, living side by side with secure and recognised borders is the only way to end the ongoing conflict.

In 1995, Histadrut and PGFTU signed an agreement where fifty percent of all dues from Palestinians employed by Israeli employers are remitted to the PGFTU. Histadrut and PGFTU are co-operating at confederation and union levels. There is extensive cooperation especially in the construction sector.

During the visit IndustriALL met with its Israeli affiliates Publishing, Communication, Artists, Energy & Tour Guide Workers’ Union; Textile Workers Union and National Union of Metal, Electric & Electronic Workers. Over the last couple of years, IndustriALL has supported several campaigns in Israel, such as the cases at Natural Gas and Israeli chemical companies.

IndustriALL also met with the National Union of Pharmaceutical and Food Workers and the Chemical Workers Union, representing among others workers at Teva, the world's biggest generic drugs producer. IndustriALL affiliates represent workers at Teva in many countries.

At the end of the mission, it was agreed with Israeli affiliates to work on a number of different topics, starting with precarious work, as rampant phenomenon in Israel as in the rest of whole world.

It was a moving, emotional and constructive mission,

said Kemal Özkan.

IndustriALL Global Union will continue to work with the ITUC and other global unions on general policy matters. In the meantime, we will reinforce our cooperation with affiliates in Palestine and Israel and encourage dialogue and cooperation between our affiliates belonging to PGFTU and Histadrut.