ICHR’s statement on the occasion of the May 1st International Labor Day




ICHR’s statement on the occasion of the May 1st International Labor Day

The Independent Commission for Human Rights extends greetings and appreciation to all workers in the Palestinian territory on the May 1 International Labor Day. The Commission affirms its full support for the workers in all sectors, and expresses appreciation for their efforts to provide a decent standard of living for their families in light of the escalation of Israeli violations against them and the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Palestinian workers suffer systematic violations committed by the Israeli occupation authorities, in terms of their failure to comply with occupational health and safety requirements in the work environment inside the Green Line, as the number of worker deaths reached 23 deaths and more than 500 work injuries in 2020. These violations also include the continued abuse at the Israeli military checkpoints and denial of their social rights, by seizing their financial savings, which in billions of shekels since 1970

This years, the occasion falls as the suffering of Palestinian workers deeply exacerbates with the Corona pandemic, the effects of which included the declaration of the state of emergency, the adoption of health measures.  These measures included the closure of many different economic sectors, reduction in the number of workers, lockdown of governorates and cities, which prevented workers’ access to their work places, doubling the number of workers who were absent from their work. The measures further caused stopping activities of most private-sector economic projects and the resulting increase in unemployment rates, which reached 26% of the labor force. The above effects also resulted in the persistence of many violations that affected the right to work. The most prominent of these effects included the dwindling of women participation in the labor market that dropped by 10% compared to the previous year. Added to the above is the high rate of workers who receive less than the monthly minimum wage (1450 shekels), which affected 62% of the total wage employees and the decrease in the number of workers who enjoy their legal rights. The pandemic also significantly affected wage flows to workers in Palestine, as about 52% of the main wage earners did not receive any wages during the lockdown periods.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of the unemployed reached 304000 in the fourth quarter of 2020, of whom 168000 people in the Gaza Strip and 136000 people in the West Bank, and the unemployment rate reached 43% in the Gaza Strip compared to 15% in the West Bank. The unemployment rate for males was 20% compared to 37% for females.

The continuing deterioration of workers' conditions reveals the need for a social protection system that preserves their dignity and human rights, because of the lack of a collective security law that protects and guarantees the minimum level, especially in cases of emergency and crises. The accession of the State of Palestine to the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights makes it imperative to take legislative and policy measures necessary to provide decent work as required, by taking positive measures to guarantee this right, such as adopting a social security law and a law regulating trade union organization.

In this context, the Independent Commission appreciates the decision of the Council of Ministers in its last session, related to revising the minimum wage and increasing it in proportion to the provision of the minimum needs of workers in terms of providing basic commodities and services, the high cost of living and the high prices. At the same time, the Commission stresses the need for the government to initiate social dialogue with the rest of the production process parties to ensure improvement of the conditions of workers and their advancement. Thus, the Commission demands that:

1. The government addresses the United Nations agencies make a serious intervention to stop the daily escalating violations by the occupation. The Israeli occupation bears its full responsibilities as the occupying power for its continuous violations of the rights of Palestinian workers.

2. The Council of Ministers opens a serious dialogue with trade unions and federations to develop legislations governing the right to work, foremost among which is the Social Security Law that was canceled, and to provide a legal framework for trade union organization.

3. The Ministry of Labor continuously monitors the conditions and of work environment at the economic establishments, to ensure that employers adhere to the Palestinian Labor Law No. (7) of 2000, and the international standards requirements regulating occupational and health safety at work sites, especially in light of the outbreak of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

4. The Cabinet reviewing governmental plans and programs, introducing measures and programs to reduce unemployment rates, preparing programs targeting youth, in partnership with the private sector, and paying attention to fair working conditions for working women.

5. The cooperation of the Ministry of Labor and the High Judicial Council to establish specialized labor courts that would contribute to alleviating the suffering of workers in the context of their access to justice.

The End