Last week was my first week as a peace fellow with DWRC (Democracy and Workers Rights Center) and more specifically with the GFITUP (General Federation of Independent Trade Unions-Palestine). The federation was created in 2007 and it is the only trade union in Palestine that is not politicized and is independent of all political parties. This is contrary to the other two trade unions that are very associated with Palestinian political parties. Having independent trade unions does not mean that the members of the union have no particular political affiliation. It rather means that their decision-making is independent from the government, employers and political parties. Democracy, transparency and the representation of women and youth are also very important principles for the federation. I will have more to say on this topic when I get more involved with the different unions in the federation.
One of the problems of the federation is that no one has a full-time job as employer in the federation. All of those who are part of the administrative body have other jobs and thus we do not find anyone in the main office of the federation. Anas is the main person who works for the federation, but cannot do everything he has to do because of lack of time and money. Another main issue of the federation is that they do not have an International voice and have no connections with other unions around the world. Thus, it will be my main goal during my fellowship to help the federation raise its voice and get in contact with other unions. As a starting point, I started working on the website of the federation. It needs a lot of improvement, updating of information and of photos. The website is in Arabic and in English so I started working on the Arabic version and I am trying to do my best to improve it.
I will not keep talking about the other things I will work on during my fellowship. I would rather like to talk about Palestinian workers in Israel. Many Palestinians in the West Bank try to find jobs in Israel because they are paid better, although they are not paid as Israeli workers and are considered by Israel as cheap labor. There are two main categories of Palestinian workers in Israel: those who work legally (have work permits) and those who work illegally (have no work permits). Both have to pay a lot to get into Israel (300NIS-500 NIS/ around $100) in a trip that is very tiring and dangerous (especially for those who do not have work permits). Several workers die on their way to work; many get arrested by Israeli soldiers in case they do not have work permits; and those who have work permits might get fired when they arrive late to work because of the delay at checkpoints. Therefore, Palestinian workers wake up at around 3 or 4 a.m. in order to be able to start working on time, since many have to pass through more than one checkpoint to arrive to work.
- Efrain checkpoint
Most of these Palestinian workers are exploited by Israeli employers, especially those who do not have work permits. Israeli employers are aware of their illegal status, and threaten of handing them to the Israeli authorities if they complain about anything. These workers stay for several months in Israel without going back to their homes in the West Bank. Many of them are married and have children. One of the things that Anas told me and that surprised me is that these workers have sex with Russian or Israeli women without using any kind of protection and might thus get infected with HIV and transmit the virus later to their wives. For further information on this topic, please visit this website. The study was done in Arabic but I am thinking of translating it to English to make it more accessible to those who do not read Arabic. It is a very interesting article and a taboo subject in the Palestinian society. I should get the approval of the federation first and then I will translate and publish the article with AP.
Posted By Nur Arafeh
Posted Jun 18th, 2012