Palestinian hotel workers closed 2010 with a major victory, achieving important rights and protections after more than a year of negotiations with the Arab Hotel Association, according to a report published by the Solidarity Center.
“Following an organizing campaign that began in August 2009 with the support of the Solidarity Center, the Palestine General Federation of Trade Union (PGFTU) and the Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union (HRWU) reached an agreement with hotel owners on critical issues that will improve working conditions for workers and better guarantee them their rights under existing labor law.”
“The agreement elevates and strengthens the workers’ spirits and creates optimism about improving working conditions,” said Ahmad Hasasneh, 45, who helped organize campaigns in Ramallah and Bethlehem.
“As a result of organizing the Royal Hotel, workers now enjoy weekends, health care, and a free meal. There is a feeling of victory, power, and security at work.”
The agreement underscores respect for standing labor law (including basic health and safety provisions), training for workers, and paid vacation.
The deal also established a joint committee, with union and owner representation, that will continue to discuss other issues. Workers hope to achieve collective bargaining agreements, which would exceed minimum labor standards, at individual hotels.
About 900 people are union members. Staff levels at the 65 hotels range from 1,800 men and women to 2,600 people in high season.
The statement goes on to say that “The Solidarity Center provided support for the original organizing campaign, working with the local Hotel and Restaurant Workers, and first focusing on the nine biggest hotels in the West Bank.
” The agreement signed in December 2010 ultimately was extended to cover 65 hotels in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”
This is not only a huge win for Palestinian workers, but an outstanding example of international trade union solidarity — which is not about boycotting and demonizing one side, but about providing real assistance to workers and building strong, independent, and democratic unions.