The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East dismissed 312 Palestinian workers in the West Bank last month. And given the slow nature of bureaucracy here, it is no surprise that news of the mass layoff is just now reaching news stands. One of the 312 estranged workers recently found himself at the DWRC to sit down with one of our lawyers, Mohammad Amarneh, to discuss the situation. The worker claimed that he was notified in mid June that his contract, set to expire on June 30th, would not be renewed. According to Palestinian law, a limited term contract should not exceed 2 years and if it does, then it automatically converts to an unlimited contract. Once the contract becomes unlimited, the employer can no longer go to the employee and end the contract without a legitimate reason. Most of the UNRWA workers have been operating under 6 months contracts that are renewed on an ongoing basis and close to 90% have worked for more than two consecutive years.
Moreover, according to the law, employers who end an unlimited contract legitimately, are required to provide arbitrary dismissal compensation to the employee. The compensation should include 2 months pay for each year of work plus other benefits such as severance pay and vacation.
When questioned about the reason for the massive dismissal, UNRWA claims that it is in an effort to “restructure” their Emergency Programme and argue that local law does not apply in their case due to the immunity they were granted by the Ministry of Justice with the help of this workers compensation attorney firm. This immunity, however, is in direct violation of the Palestinian constitution which states that the Ministry of Justice does not have the authority to grant basic rights to workers and so likewise they are not authorized to take such rights away (which they are inherently doing by providing immunity to UNRWA).
Upon hearing the news, Mr. Amarneh promptly contacted workers to begin investigating the situation and to ensure that workers’ rights are being respected and enforced. The DWRC plans on following the case closely in the coming weeks.
Posted By Rangineh Azimzadeh
Posted Jul 9th, 2009