DWRC organizes its eighth annual trade union forum “toward a Palestinian social movement”
Jericho- On September 30th, 2017, the Democracy and Workers’ Rights Center in Palestine (DWRC) concluded its eighth annual trade union forum, which was held in Jericho from 28/09/2017 to 30/09/2017. The forum’s objective was to gather male and female union representatives from across the spectrum of the Palestinian trade union movement to strengthen ties among them, develop their understanding of common issues and concerns, enable them to discuss laws and issues that affect workers’ rights and interests, and reflect on ways to unify the trade union movement and create a strong social movement.
Official opening session of the forum
The annual trade union forum was attended by 119 female and male unionists representing 52 trade unions and sectorial federations, including the following: Communication Workers’ Union – Palestine (with the participation of a representative of CWU secretariat and its member unions: Hadara Technologies Company Employees’ Union, Palestinian Postal Service Workers’ Union, Jawwal Employees’ Union), Palestinian Federation of University Professors and Employees’ Trade Unions, Federation of Governmental Universities and Colleges’ Employees (its secretariat and member unions: Al-Umma College Employees’ Union, Palestine Technical College Employees’ Union, Khadouri University Employees’ Union, Al-Aroub College Employees’ Union), General Union of Private Health Sector Employees (and its members unions: Al-Zaka hospital workers’ union, Al-Ahli Hospital Workers’ Union, Holy Family Hospital workers’ union), Palestinian Federation of University Professors and Employees’ Trade Unions (and its member unions from Birzeit University and Al Najah National University), Employees’ unions in Qalqilia, Yatta, Hebron, Bani Na’em, Al-Thahariyeh, Idna, Tarqumia, Al-Bireh, and Al-Yaseriyeh municipalities), the Union of Social Workers and Psychologists (its branches in Bethlehem and Hebron), the Palestinian New Federation of Trade Unions, Kindergarten, Day-care and Private Schools Workers’ Union (and 4 of its branches in Ramallah, Tulkarem, Bethlehem and Hebron), Palestinian Electrician’s unions in Hebron, Jenin, Tulkarem, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Ramallah, Electricity Companies’ Employees Unions (in Jerusalem, Tubas, South Hebron), Palestinian Nursing Association, Ibn Sina College Employees’ Union (under establishment), Islamic Charitable Society Employees’ Union, Ihsan Charitable Society Employees’ Union, Hotels and Tourism Companies Workers’ Union/ Jericho (under establishment), Restaurant and Tourism Companies Workers’ Union/ Ramallah, Governmental Health Service Employees’ Union, Banking and Insurance Companies Employees’ Union, the General Union of Water Sector, Palestinian Red Crescent Society Employees’ Union, Emergency Medical Service Union, Community Health Workers’ Union, Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, and Palestinian Accountants’ Union.
Unionists’ interventions during the forum’s discussions
DWRC general director, Hasan Barghouthi, opened the forum by reviewing the current situation of the Palestinian trade union movement, calling for its unification and the issuance of a law that guarantees trade union rights, which social partners should take an active role in drafting. He addressed the situation of workers in the Palestinian and Israeli labor markets, and numerous violations of rights faced in the absence of an adequate role by trade unions. He also noted that appropriate attention must be given to unions that democratically elect their representatives in all sectors.
Mr. Bilal Thawaba, the general director of the labor relations department at the Palestinian Ministry of Labor, pointed out Ministry’s role in supporting the trade union movement and workers, calling on all involved parties to separate between national, political factions and trade union action, and reiterating support for the principle of trade union pluralism. He also asked all trade unions to put their internal situations in order based on their constitutions.
Mr. Omar Al-Hroub, a representative of the popular organizations’ department, called for the existence of active organizations that express the right and interests of workers and members through democratic systems that are the means of fair competition under the slogan "protect the system to protect the institutions". He also encouraged women and youth to become more involved in popular organizations.
Dr. Majed Al-Hilo, the president of the Palestinian Pension Agency, gave a detailed explanation of the law by decree no 17 of the year 2017 on early retirement for civilian public sector employees, and answered questions raised by unionists during the ensuing discussion.
During the forum, Mr. Bilal Thawaba also provided an update about the latest developments related to the implementation of the Social Security Law of the year 2016 for private sector workers, and answered the participants' questions, explaining that the mandatory application of the law will begin in October 2018.
Dr. Majed Al-Hilo’s intervention on the early retirement law
Seven working groups were formed to discuss key issues, including the law by decree no 11 of the year 2017 on regulating the right to strike in public services, mechanisms to unify and democratize the trade union movement, the draft law on trade union organizing, and social movements. Three of the working groups discussed specific topics: one of them addressed the situation and demands of governmental universities and colleges’ employees, the second reviewed the status of municipal workers’ unions in the Hebron governorate and mechanisms to form a federation, while a working group for women unionists discussed the main problems and challenges facing women in the labor market and in unions, and proposed interventions.
Preparing the working group’s presentation on the strike law discussion
During the forum, unionists in several sectors seized the opportunity to meet and discuss specific issues, including Palestinian Electrician’s Unions (in Hebron, Jenin, Tulkarem, Jerusalem Bethlehem and Ramallah), Kindergarten and Private Schools Workers’ Union and its branches, and the General Union of Private Health Sector Employees. Several committees were formed by union representatives to follow-up on specific issues, including an establishing committee for women’s union council, an advocacy committee to manage an advocacy campaign on the draft law of union organizing and a third committee to follow up on the process for unifying trade union federations. On the final day of the forum, the main outcomes and recommendations proposed by working groups were adopted by participating unions as part of their programs and plans for the next phase.
Working group on the trade union movement