DWRC addresses the topic of “a unified trade union movement based on democratic elections from bottom to top” in its ninth annual trade union forum
Bethlehem – On July 28th, 2018, the Democracy and Workers’ Rights Center in Palestine (DWRC) concluded its ninth annual trade union forum on the topic of “a unified trade union movement based on democratic elections from bottom to top”, which was held in Bethlehem from 26/07/2018 to 28/07/2018. The forum’s objective was to analyze the situation of the Palestinian trade union movement, in the light of draft law on union organizing, and discuss mechanisms for unifying trade unions under a common umbrella.
The annual trade union forum was attended by 47 unionists, including 12 women, representing 34 trade unions and sectorial federations, including the following: Palestinian Postal Service Workers’ Union (its branches in Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem, Qalqilia, and Jenin), State Universities and Colleges’ Employees Union (its secretariat and member unions: Al-Umma College Employees’ Union, Khadouri University Employees’ Union and its branches in Ramallah, Tulkarem, Al-Aroub), General Union of Private Health Sector Employees (and its member unions: Al-Zaka Hospital Workers’ Union and Al-Ahli Hospital Workers’ Union), Employees’ unions in Qalqilia, Hebron, Al-Thahariyeh, Idna, Halhoul, and Al-Yaseriyeh municipalities, Community Health Workers’ Union, Palestinian Electrician’s unions in Hebron and Yatta, Tubas and South Electricity Companies Employees’ Union, Al-Ihsan Charitable Society Employees’ Union, Banking and Insurance Companies Employees’ Union, Palestinian Red Crescent Society Employees’ Union in Ramallah and Tulkarem, Emergency Medical Service Union, National Insurance Company Employees’ Union, Kindergarten, Day-care and Private Schools Workers’ Union in Tulkarem, and Dar Al Shifa Pharmaceuticals Company Workers’ Union.
DWRC general director, Hasan Barghouthi, opened the forum by giving a detailed explanation about the current situation of the Palestinian trade union movement. He addressed conditions and expected prospects of trade union action, and the general political situation. He stressed that trade unions can be powerful actors of change, giving the examples of the actions carried out by independent trade unions in the Arab countries, in Tunisia and Jordan.
Mr. Mohammed Al-Swaiti, member of Al-Yaseriyeh Municipality Workers’ Union, presented a work paper about work mechanisms in local authorities before and after the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority. He also addressed the legal framework for workers in local authorities, and issues facing municipal workers’ unions.
Three working groups were formed to analyze the situation of the Palestinian trade union movement and issues faced by trade unions. In addition, one working group was formed to discuss the specific issues faced by employees in local authorities, and propose solutions. Issues discussed included the lack of awareness about trade union work among representatives and members, lack of effective communication between unions due to the absence of a unified trade union body, the absence of a trade union law and other legislations that would effectively protect the exercise of the right to organize, political parties’ involvement in choosing union leaders, as well as lack of transparency and credibility in the work of some trade union bodies, which increases possibilities for financial and administrative corruption.
During the forum, a number of unionists pointed out the difficulties they are facing in defending workers' rights and interests. Amina Hawasheen, the head of Kindergarten and Private Schools Workers’ Union in Tulkarem, called for the implementation of fundamental rights, especially the implementation of minimum wage for most marginalized groups, such as kindergarten workers.
On the final day of the forum, participants reviewed outcomes and recommendations proposed by working groups. A coordination committee was established consisting of 8 members, including one woman, to undertake required steps to improve trade unions’ situation, and to develop a strategic plan to achieve unified work mechanisms and objectives between all unions.
Unionists also recommended the adoption of a trade union law, ending political party representation in the leadership positions of trade unions, and assisting trade unions in developing strategic plans in order to strengthen their participation in tripartite dialogue committees.