Most employees in kindergartens in the West Bank work in very bad conditions. They don’t enjoy the minimum rights that any worker should have. This is a very important issue since these workers play a major role in teaching the future generation and fostering their social and academic skills.
The injustice suffered by these workers cannot be neglected. The amount of wage these workers (mostly women) get is one of the most prominent violations they face. They earn between 400-800NIS/month ($100-$200/month). It is important to note that the poverty line in Palestine is 2237 NIS($552) and the extreme poverty line is 1783NIS($440). So the question is: what kind of decent life can these women have when they earn between $100 and $200?
Giving such amount of wage is also a violation of the International Covenant on economic, cultural and social rights. Article 7 states that remuneration should provide all workers “[a] decent living for themselves and their families.” Unfortunately, the opposite is happening in this sector.
In addition, many employers postpone paying the salaries and some of them pay the whole salary at the end of each semester, i.e. four months after the beginning of work.
Article 7 also stipulates that conditions of work should ensure “[r]est, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay, as well as remuneration for public holidays.” However, workers in kindergartens do not enjoy these rights.
During summer vacations, which last for three months in Palestine, most employers don’t pay kindergarten workers. According to DWRC, 78.8% of workers don’t get paid in summer vacations and few employers pay half the salary or consider the summer vacation an annual leave. However, this is a strong violation of article 81of the Palestinian Labor Law which specifies that employees should be paid when the workplace is on vacation.
Moreover, most of kindergarten employees who have been working for more than ten years don’t get an annual increase in their salaries. In addition, 42.6% of the salaries don’t cover the transport fees, which might equal 100NIS/month (1/4 of the salary)!
In order to fight this injustice, hundreds of kindergarten workers participated in a rally organized by the Democracy and Workers Rights Center (DWRC) and the General Federation of Independent Trade Unions (GFITU). They demanded the support of the Palestinian government to set a minimum wage and ensure the application of labor law. They also called upon the Ministry of Labor to tighten its control over kindergartens and stop the unfair dismissal of kindergarten workers.
The important question that we should ask is: Why do these kindergarten employees work in such bad conditions and what can they do to fight this injustice?
First, it should be noted that this sector employs almost exclusively women, so there might be gender-bias about women’s work in kindergartens. As DWRC has noted, many see this work as an extension of women’s reproductive role that does not need any qualifications. Hence, they don’t see any value in the work of these women and don’t consider them as other workers who should enjoy their labor rights.
Second, most of kindergarten workers don’t have any legal literacy and are not part of trade unions. Thus, it becomes difficult for them to know their rights and claim them. Third, the Palestinian government and the Ministry of Labor have not yet set a minimum wage and disregard the regular inspections that should be done for this sector.
Therefore, these women should quickly organize themselves in a union in order to push the government to set minimum wages and apply Labor Law. Cooperation with other trade unions is also recommended to increase pressure on the government.
Posted By Nur Arafeh
Posted Aug 14th, 2012