Statement on the increase of the statute of limitations for labor cases in Gaza to three years

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Statement on the increase of the statute of limitations for labor cases in Gaza to three years.

In a recent development, the statute of limitations for filing claims for labor rights in courts in the Gaza Strip has been increased to three years. This concerns claims filed on the basis of the labor rights guaranteed by the Palestinian Labor Law no 7 of the year 2000, i.e. by workers, whose rights for wages and/or end of service indemnities and rights related to their former period of employment have been violated. Statistics indicate violations of labor rights are widespread, with denial of severance pay concerning over three quarters of all employed workers in the private sector. The time-limit for claiming labor rights through the judiciary is thus of particular importance to enable workers to seek redress.   

The Palestinian Labor Law no 7 of the year 2000 does not stipulate a statute of limitations for claiming labor rights and compensations, except when the case concerns claims for work injuries’ compensations, which have to be submitted within two years from the date on which the injury occurred (article 124). For cases concerning any other labor rights, the statute of limitations is fifteen years based on the journal of justice judgments. While this continues to be applied in the West Bank, a one-year statute of limitations was introduced and enforced five years ago in the Gaza Strip through articles 414 and 795 of the Civil Law no 4 of the year 2012 adopted by the Hamas parliamentary bloc in Gaza. From 2014, workers’ rights could no longer be claimed after one year if a complaint had not been filed before a court to request them (except for work injuries’ compensations for which the statute of limitations remained two years).

The statute of limitations introduced in Gaza is discriminatory, since it set less favorable rules for workers covered by the scope of the Labor Law in Gaza compared to the rules applied to workers in the West Bank, and denied them their rights to unpaid wages and compensations for years of services and other rights if their claims had not been filed in court within one year from the date they were entitled to these rights.

Upon its issuance, the Democracy and Workers’ Rights Center, alongside trade unions, other civil society organizations and the Bar Association started an advocacy campaign against this new statute of limitations, due to its extremely negative effects on workers’ rights. A modification of the statute of limitations was also supported by the Labor Ministry and the Advisory and Legislation Bureau on the same grounds. However, it took six years for the Hamas parliamentary group to approve an increase of the statute of limitations to three years. It was introduced through the issuance of Law no 2 of the year 2018 modifying the Labor Law no 7 of the year 2000, in force since October 14th, 2018, and published in the 97th edition of the official bulletin in March 2019 in the Gaza Strip.

This new law, which is only enforced in the Gaza Strip and is unconstitutional, stipulates the following:

“Article (1): Article 6 bis shall be added to the Labor Law no 7 of the year 2000 as follows:

No claim shall be heard regarding any rights arising under the provisions of this Law, including wages for overtime working hours, regardless of their source or origin, after a time limit of three years has passed from the origin of the grounds for claiming such rights and wages.

Article (2): The provisions of this Law shall apply to all rights, which have exceeded the time limit set by the statute of limitations in accordance with the preceding legislation, unless a final judgment has been rendered.”

Article (3): Any provision contrary to the provisions of this Law shall be repealed.”

While the increase of the statute of limitations is undeniably a positive step for workers in the Gaza Strip, it nonetheless continues to deny them equal treatment. The instrument chosen for its revision, i.e. the amendment of the Labor Law, is likewise problematic. DWRC calls for the unification of all legislation between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including labor legislation, and for the adoption of progressive dispositions in line with international conventions, when laws are reformed. The same rights should be guaranteed to all workers in Palestine protected under the scope of the same law, regardless of their geographical location, including the right to legal remedy that should not be undermined. In consequence, a statute of limitations of fifteen years should be reintroduced in the Gaza Strip.