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Risking jobs, Palestinian workers in West Bank settlement unionize

When the Palestinian workers at a West Bank aluminum factory tried to unionize, the management responded with a resounding no.

Nearly half of the 65 workers at the MS Aluminum Ltd. factory, located in the Israeli-run Mishor Adumim industrial zone in the West Bank, unionized last week after joining the Workers Advice Center (WAC-MAAN). According to Israeli law, at least one-third of all workers in the factory must join the union in order to be considered their representative organization. WAC-MAAN told the factory management last week that they had passed the necessary threshold  – 31 workers – and are expecting to begin negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement.

The workers claim that the management imposes arbitrary fines, illegally deducts hours from their pay stubs, doesn’t properly compensate them for transportation and owes workers large sums of money in pension contributions. Some of the more skilled workers have been at the factory for many years, yet they claim that most make just above minimum wage, and are demanding a wage increase to match that of the most senior workers in the factory.

Attorney Yaron Eliran, who represents MS Aluminum’s management, rejected WAC-MAAN’s status as representative of the factory workers, adding that the workers will receive an official, detailed letter when the management returns from a trip abroad. The company told +972 that the issue is currently being dealt with legally, and that they have no intention of publicly discussing the matter.

Employees at the Zarfati Garage in Mishur Adumim vote to strike on July 22, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Ma’an workers union)

Employees at the Zarfati Garage in Mishur Adumim vote to strike on July 22, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Ma’an workers union)

MS Aluminum’s employees are not the first Palestinian workers in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone, located in the Ma’ale Adumim settlement, to unionize. Last year, WAC-MAAN organized workers at the Y. Tzarfati garage, protesting against their low wages and other problems in their employment. In response, the management fired the nascent union’s chairman, Hatem Abu Zeida. WAC-MAAN appealed the decision, and the case is currently being heard in the National Labor Court.

Palestinian workers employed in the settlements and industrial zones frequently suffer from poor working conditions. Furthermore, striking or unionizing runs the risk of having their work permits rescinded by the army.

This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

Related:
How does SodaStream treat its Palestinian workers when the media isn’t looking?
The cynical use of Palestinian workers in the SodaStream controversy

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