DWRC organizes its seventh annual democratic trade union forum, toward a unified democratic trade union movement
Bethlehem- On October 1st, 2016, the Democracy and Workers’ Rights Center in Palestine (DWRC) concluded its seventh annual democratic trade union forum, which was held in Bethlehem between 29/09/2016 and 01/10/2016. This year, 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, and discuss the principles for unifying the trade union movement and strengthening its capacity to defend Palestinian workers’ rights and interests.
The forum was attended by 38 trade unions and sectorial federations that represent 44870 workers, with a significant participation of women unionists. Representatives of the following unions attended the forum: Private Schools and Kindergarten Workers Union (and 4 of its branches in Ramallah, Tulkarem, and Bethlehem), Palestinian Federation of University Professors and Employees’ Trade Unions, Federation of Governmental Universities and Colleges’ Employees (and its member unions: Al-Umma College Employees’ Union, Ramallah Technical College Employees’ Union, Khadouri University Employees’ Union, Al-Aroub College Employees’ Union, Palestine Polytechnic University Employees’ Union), Communication Workers’ Union – Palestine (and its member unions: Palmedia Employees’ Union, Hadara Technologies Company Employees’ Union, Palestinian Postal Service Workers’ Union), General Union of Private Health Sector Employees (and its members unions: Al-Zaka hospital workers’ union, Al-Ahli Hospital Workers’ Union), Governmental Health Service Employees’ Union, Banking and insurance companies employees’ union, Palestinian Accounting Association, Palestinian Nursing Association, Southern Electricity Company Employees Union, Islamic Charitable Society Employees’ Union, Ihsan Charitable Society Employees’ Union, General Union of Petrochemical Workers, Jerusalem Water Undertaking Workers’ Union, Emergency Medical Service Union, Palestinian Red Crescent Society Employees’ Union, Construction and Wood Workers’ Union, Community Health Workers’ Union, Employees’ unions in Qalqilia, Hebron, Idna, Al-Yaseriyeh, Halhul, Taffouh, Yatta, and Al-Thahariyeh municipalities, Electrician’s unions in Hebron, Jenin and Tulkarem.
On October 30, the forum hosted the Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Labor, Mr. Naser Qatami, who discussed with the participants the situation of trade union movement, pointing out the role of Ministry of Labour in supporting workers and latest developments concerning labor and social legislation. In relation with the amended Social Security law ratified last week, Mr. Qatami said: “the ministry will start determining law enforcement mechanisms starting from Sunday 02/10/2016, through building an institutional body and determining social partners”. He stressed the various amendments to the law that were adopted in line with the demands raised by civil society, commending DWRC for its technical input in the process that led to these amendments. Participants addressed their questions and concerns to the deputy minister, many of which concerned the new law and its application.
DWRC general director Hasan Barghouthi spoke about the importance of redefining the relationship between trade unions and political parties, and freeing trade unions of their control, as well as ensuring that leaderships are elected democratically at all levels by members. He also mentioned how unifying the trade union movement would enhance its ability to defend workers’ rights and interests, and that reforming the constitution of the trade union federation and its electoral system constitutes an essential step in this respect.
During the forum, participants presented their trade unions and sectorial federations, and their struggles and achievements in defending workers’ rights and interests. DWRC also presented its work and services, and the milestones achieved by the democratic trade union movement in Palestine in the past decade and a half.
Five working groups were formed to discuss key issues, including the constitution, structure and electoral system of the trade union federation, the amended social security law, the draft trade union law and the amendments requested by DWRC and trade unions, and the unification process and common issued faced by trade unions representing municipal workers. Each working group presented its findings in plenary, enabling other participants to contribute in the discussion. A committee of union representatives was formed to follow-up on requested amendments to the draft trade union law with the Minister of Labor. Challenges regarding the implementation of the new social security law and a plan for spreading awareness about the law were also discussed.
On the third day of the forum, a general discussion took place about the main principles and basis on which participating trade unions would like to build a unified trade union movement. Among them, participants mentioned ensuring democracy, accountability, participation, placing union interests over partisan interests, and protection of three fundamental rights (freedom of association and the right to organize, freedom of assembly & freedom of expression). Based on these proposals, a charter of honor will be developed and submitted to the unions for their adoption. Participants also discussed some of the sectors, in which there is a need to foster an organizing process and opportunities for cooperation for doing so.
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