Top level union missions visit Palestine and Israel

One of the biggest global union groupings in the world  - UNI Global Union – is holding a major World Congress meeting in Nagasaki Japan in November - where the Palestine/Israel conflict is on the agenda for discussion.

A six-day mission to Palestine and Israel has just been completed by senior members of the UNI Global Union; the results of the mission will inform an Action Plan to be presented to the Nagasaki Congress.

UNI Global Union represents 900 trade unions and 20 million largely white collar workers worldwide.

High level ITUC mission now in Palestine and Israel

Also right now the International Trade Union Confederation – led by the recently elected ITUC Secretary-General, Sharan Burrow - has a mission visiting Palestine and Israel.

Included in the ITUC mission are the heads of the German national trade union centre, Michael Sommer, and the British national trade union centre, Brendan Barber – as well as top union people from Norway and Belgium.

ITUC and UNI Global Union committed to promoting peace

In a circular to UNI Global Union affiliates Philip Jennings, the UNI general secretary, notes that UNI Global Union will continue to engage with Palestine and Israel and notes that UNI Global Union affiliates in both countries are committed to a two-state solution.

Philip Jennings has told his affiliates that both the ITUC and UNI Global Union will continue the global union efforts for peace in the region.

Praise for Histadrut’s union work

Mr Jennings praised the revitalised Histadrut leadership for their campaign to grow union power in that country.

He noted  the result of this  organising work is the new, and now well recognised, political muscle of the union movement in Israel.

The leader of the Histadrut, Ofer Eini, has introduced an ‘organise-and-recognise’ strategy, which has brought an increase in membership and more than 100 new collective agreements, the UNI Global Union mission noted.

“ Histadrut has returned to prominence in Israel and has a clear influence over economic policy.

“They successfully campaigned against the privatisation of postal services,” Mr Jennings told UNI Global Union affiliates, in a circular distributed last week.

“ Histadrut is committed to working with the PGFTU on a range of issues, including the rights of Palestinian workers.”

Concern for job security of 30,000 Palestinian workers

The UNI Global Union mission circular noted the Palestinian leadership was promoting the boycott against goods produced in the illegal settlements and sold in Palestine, and calling on Palestinians not to accept jobs in the settlements.

But the UNI mission also reported that the PGFTU has come concerns about this campaign.

Shaher Saed

In Palestine the mission met with the top leadership of the Palestinian trade union centre, the PGFTU.

PGFTU General Secretary, Shaher Saed, spoke of the difficult conditions in the Palestinian economy, with 40% unemployment in the Gaza strip and over 20% in the West Bank.

The UNI Global Mission also met with the Palestinian Minister for Labour.

The Minister explained his reason for the decree banning Palestinians from working in companies operating in the settlements: i.e. not to support economic activity in illegal settlements. This impacts over 30,000 workers.

PGFTU and Histadrut concerned about boycotts - for different reasons

“ The PGFTU has demanded that measures be taken to find jobs and has advised Palestinian workers to continue to work there until they find alternative employment,” Mr Jennings told UNI Global Union affiliates in his circular.

The circular also noted that the “ Histadrut is opposed to any calls for a boycott of goods from the settlements”.

Israeli Minister asks UNI to facilitate meeting with Palestinian counterpart

The UNI mission met with Isaac Herzog, the Israeli Minister of Welfare and Social Affairs, who agreed to meet his Palestinian counterpart and called on UNI to make this possible.

Herzog, a prominent and powerful Labor politician is currently challenging the Israeli Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, for the leadership of the Labor Party.