Union leads West Bank worker strike against Israeli factory

West Bank workers went on strike Tuesday at an Israeli factory that has refused to pay them minimum wage.

Seventy-two workers at the Soul Or factory in the Tulkarem district in the West Bank stopped work and demanded that the factory administration implement an Israeli labor law, passed in early 2008, requiring that Palestinians be paid minimum wage.

Workers demand their rights under Israeli labour law

Muhammad Baleedy, the head of the workers union in the food and agriculture industries, told Ma’an News Agency that workers are only demanding the minimum required under Israeli law.

He said the factory’s management has responded to the requests by using foul language.

Union says six workers die due to improper chemical storage

Baleedy also claimed occupational health and safety standards at the factory are almost nonexistent.

He said six workers have died either on the job or afterwards due to cancer caused by the improper storage of chemicals. Workers who complain to the media are routinely fired, Baleedy added.

The owner of the factory is reportedly a general in the Israeli military.

He moved the facility across the Green Line because the emissions from the factory did not meet Israeli health standards.

Repeat of earlier 2007 dispute with Palestinian workers

There have been strikes by Palestinian workers before at this factory. A media report from 2007 shows the workers were making much the same demands about workplace safety.

The employees at the factory cite dangerous working conditions and low wages as the reason for their strike, YNet news said in 2007.

“The working conditions are unbearable”, says Muhammad Baladi, the acting head of the impromptu union that the striking employees formed.

“We earn between 60 and 150 Shekels per day, and most of us earn less than 80 Shekels per day. We have no insurance and are working in unsafe conditions. Up to now three employees died in work related accidents in the plant”.

The YNet report said at the time: ” One should note the recent Israeli High Court of Justice ruling stating that Palestinian working in Israeli factories in the West Bank have equal right to Israeli employees with respect to the labor laws. “