Strengthened union co-operation has potential to deliver positive change: ILO Report

ilo-imageA new ILO report on the situation of workers in the Occupied Territories takes the time to praise the historic steps taken towards co-operation between the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions and the Histadrut.

The report notes that there are a number of new projects and initiatives currently being pursued which should increase co-operation between the two union groupings.

In their 40-page report, just released, the ILO suggests that this co-operation is one of the few glimmers of light in an otherwise grim situation for workers in the occupied territories.

However the ILO report notes that in Gaza union members are still suffering because of Hamas’ hostility to trade unionism.

The ILO says the landmark agreements and commitments which the two workers’ organisations have reached aims to increase the protection of Palestinian workers and advance fraternity and coexistence between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.

International unions promote agreement between PGFTU and Histadrut

These agreements were facilitated by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)  involving the  two national trade union centres , the PGFTU and the Histadrut;  both  ITUC  affiliates

The ILO says this extraordinary agreement is  thanks to the personal involvement of the Secretary-General of the ITUC, Mr Guy Ryder.

The UN body points to these agreements as  “a unique example of co-operation providing a basis for reinvigorated partnership.”

Key features

Some of the key features of the agreement, highlighted by the ILO report, involve:

    • Reimbursement by the Histadrut to the PGFTU of the outstanding balance of legal representation fees paid by Palestinians working for Israeli employers and transfer of at least 50% of such fees to the PGFTU in future.
    • Provision of legal assistance by the Histadrut to Palestinian workers employed by Israeli employers, and support to the PGFTU in handling such cases
    • Organisation of educational and vocational training courses and workshops, particularly in the area of workers’ rights and occupational health and safety

New projects and initiatives

The new projects and initiatives being pursued jointly by the Histadrut and the PGFTU involve:

    • A training project for Palestinian and Israeli truck drivers on labour rights and occupational health and safety – this is a joint project between Israeli and Palestinian transport unions.
    • Training and employment of Palestinian construction workers in Israel – sponsored by the respective construction workers’ unions. Donor support is currently being sought in co-operation with the global union federations grouping, the Building and Wood Workers’ International.
    • The Histadrut continues to publish and distribute information material for Palestinian workers in Arabic.

Co-operation of key players has potential to deliver real changes

The ILO Report says they welcome these positive developments and says this co-operation involving key players has the potential to deliver real positive change.

“The ILO has always supported and encouraged close and fraternal relations between the Israeli and Palestinian trade union movements.

” Working together to protect workers’ rights and interests puts ILO values and principles first, displaying hope on the way to peace,” the report states.

ILO offering extra assistance to unions

The ILO is now offering to provide extra assistance to the PGFTU to improve its capacity to provide legal support and advisory services to workers, in co-operation with the Israeli federation, Histadrut, through the establishment of a legal clinic.

The report notes that many Palestinian workers have lost entitlements for lack of coordination and legal follow-up in Israeli labour courts.

Gaza still suffering

Throughout the ILO report there are many references to the differences in the situation of working people in the West Bank and Gaza.

In terms of trade union organization the ILO notes:” the Gaza branch of the PGFTU is still suffering from the attacks against unionists and the takeover of offices and facilities by Hamas.”