UNI Global Union backs bridge-building between Israeli and Palestinian workers

One of the biggest global union groupings in the world  – UNI Global Union – has endorsed the two-state solution for peace in the Middle East.

And UNI Global Union has committed itself to supporting co-operation agreements between the Israeli national trade union centre, the Histadrut, and the Palestinian national trade union centre, the PGFTU.

The UNI Global Union, representing 900 trade unions and 20 million largely white collar workers, has recently held  a major World Congress meeting in Nagasaki Japan.

Separation barrier

While the UNI Congress resolution called for the separation barrier to be dismantled, because it delays the peace process, the resolution acknowledged the importance of mutual security being recognised as central to peace.

The resolution does not once use the terminology of the anti-Israel groups who call for a boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign targeting Israel.

UNI backs strengthened co-operation, bridge building between Palestinian and Israeli unions

The conference resolution stated that UNI affiliates were committed to supporting strengthened co-operation between the trade unions of  Palestine and Israel .

They will work with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in its efforts to further promote this co-operation by encouraging and supporting bridge-building activities involving the Histadrut and the PGFTU.

Work with ITUC and UNI affiliates

To do this UNI Global wants to work not only with the ITUC but its affiliates across the globe, and in Palestine and Israel  to:

  • support capacity building campaigns for Palestinian unions and
  • to back campaigns by their Israeli affiliates in support of low wage workers in cleaning, security, postal work, commerce and finance.

Histadrut and PGFTU both back peace based on two-states

In a separate 8 page report to the Congress, on a mission to Palestine and Israel by the leadership of UNI Global Union,  it was noted that both the Histadrut and the PGFTU have adopted strong positions in favour of peace based on the two-state solution.

The UNI resolution condemned all forms of terrorism, military occupation and injustice.

Criticism of occupation and illegal settlements

In particular it noted the occupation of the West Bank, the blockade of Gaza and the existence of illegal Israeli settlements “  prolong instability and violence in the region.”

The Congress also noted that economic relations with illegal settlements  helps to sustain their existence and has called on unions affiliated to UNI to “ urge employers to stop doing business with companies  who profit from the settlements that are all illegal.”

Contradictory and complex issues involved in economic relations

However the resolution adopted by UNI does not once use the popular anti-Israel terminology, or show any support, of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the State of Israel.

In the 8 page report on the October UNI Global Union mission to Palestine and Israel participants noted the sometimes contradictory and complex nature of the debate about economic relations with these settlements.

The report notes that while the Palestinian Ministry of Labour will cease from the start of 2011 to issue work permits for Palestinians with jobs in the settlements the PGFTU has been very clear in its opposition to this move .

PGFTU will not tell Palestinians to stop working in settlements

“ The PGFTU told the mission it could not put itself in the position of advising workers  to give up jobs in the settlements while they had no alternative employment,” the report states.

The mission report notes the political reasons for the Palestinian Authority wanting to ban Palestinians from working in the settlements was clear ‘ it is contradictory to oppose the settlements and at the same time  to supply labour to construct them or to maintain their economic viability.

“ However from the social point of view  the addition of more than 30,000 unemployed to the already high unemployment  rate in the West Bank could cause great hardships for workers and their families.”

PGFTU and PA back West Bank boycott of settlement goods – not Israeli goods

While the PGFTU expresses doubt about the withdrawal of labour from the settlements  without alternative jobs being available it expressed no doubts about the Palestinian Authority campaign to convince West Bankers not to buy settlement products.

The mission report notes that the Palestinian Authority campaign is ‘ very clearly a boycott of settlement goods, not Israeli goods.’

Histadrut argues boycotts play into the hands of extremist settlers

Meanwhile the Histadrut expressed itself as being “ extremely and strongy opposed”  to any boycotts or the use of the term boycotts.

The Histadrut sees such activity as playing into the hands politically of the extremist supporters of settlements.

Read earlier report on TULIP website