The Palestinian trade union movement sent two delegates to Amman to help create a new Arab World section of the International Transport Workers Federation .
More than 100 delegates from 33 unions representing transport workers in 10 countries met in Amman, Jordan, from 12-14 January 2010.
Building trade union solidarity among transport workers
Proposals for strengthening solidarity between Arab transport workers were discussed passionately; the ongoing struggles and hardships of transport workers in Palestine and Iraq received special attention.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation is among the most active global union federations working with Middle East unions – and has put forward some innovative projects to bring Palestinian and Israeli transport unions to work together around common concerns.
Palestinian delegates to Arab World transport conference
Nasser Younis from the General Union of Palestinian Transport Workers and Kayed Award of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions Women’s Department attended the conference, a first for the Arab States, the PGFTU website reported.
Mr Younis explained to the delegates the difficult conditions experienced by Palestinian transport workers because of both the current global economic crisis, and the presence of the Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories.
Campaign to improve Palestinian transport workers’ lives
Truck drivers risk their lives because of the occupation and are regularly prosecuted by Israeli soldiers, the Palestinian union leader explained.
Nasser Younis, along with David Cockroft, the general secretary of the International Transport Workers Federation told delegates how the global union federation was intervening to help Palestinian transport workers and stop violations of the workers’ rights.
These barriers manned by the Israeli soldiers in the Territories prevented truck drivers moving around freely, weakened the Palestinian economy and transformed the lives of ordinary Palestinians into hell, the Arab delegates were told.
Strategies to build stronger transport unions in Arab World
Other issued debated ranged from the impact of the global economic crisis on the whole Arab World, to strategies for organising stronger unions involving women and young people.
Participants discussed how to develop a union perspective on climate change and influence government policy to protect the interests of workers and communities; the region is among the most vulnerable in the world to the impact of climate change. With one of the fastest growing rates of HIV/AIDS, more workplace programmes and campaigns would be initiated to combat stigma and discrimination, delegates concluded.
Build industrial solidarity in a region with many political conflicts and tensions
Bilal Malkawi, ITF representative in the Arab World concluded: “Active participation by unions in the Middle East and North Africa shows that a full commitment to regional and international solidarity in the transport industry has grown. The importance of this industrial solidarity in a region with many political conflicts and tensions cannot be underestimated.”
Newly elected chair of the Arab World committee, Said Al-Hayrash from Morocco agreed: “This conference is itself significant given the difficulties in the region. We feel now that we do have a responsibility to lead the transport union movement forward towards better integration with all transport unions globally.”
Voice of the Arab World well represented in global union federation
ITF general secretary David Cockroft looked forward to the participation of Arab World unions at the ITF congress in Mexico and called for active support from affiliates around the world. “I am looking forward to having the voice of the Arab World loud and clear at the ITF congress,” he said.
The conference unanimously agreed to re-elect Muchtar Hili of Tunisia as a member of the ITF executive board; the new North African sub-regional coordinator is Abdulaziz Hamichi from Algeria.
Women transport workers from Arab World held special session
The event was preceded by a women’s conference where delegates resolved to continue to fight for greater participation and recognition of women in union and international activities.
The conditions experienced by women transport workers in the Palestinian territories was keenly discussed ; most Palestinian women in the transport sector are limited to aviation services, indoor places, offices and services it was noted.