November 18, 2009 : Exploitation in Israeli Industrial Settlement: A call for solidarity with Palestinian workers

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RESISTING THE CORPORATIONS

Exploitation in Israeli Industrial Settlement: A call for solidarity with Palestinian workers

Kav LaOved, an Israeli workers' rights organisation which provides support and advocacy for Palestinian workers in the West Bank, has issued a call for solidarity with workers from several factories based in the Barkan industrial settlement, built on stolen Palestinian land in the Salfit governorate.

The call for solidarity states that:

"Several groups of Palestinian workers who worked – and some of whom still work – for the Israeli companies Royalife, Royalnight and Niceah Ltd have appealed to Kav LaOved (Workers' Hotline). These companies own a textile factory in the Barkan Israeli industrial zone. The workers complained to us that the labour laws in their place of work were being blatantly violated.

"According to testimonies from both male and female workers at the factory, their salary ranges from 7 – 12 shekels an hour (approximately a third of the minimum wage in Israel of 21.70 shekels an hour). A few workers get paid 15 shekels an hour. The workers do not receive a pay slip as required by Israeli law, nor do they receive other social benefits such as vacation days, sick pay, convalescence pay, overtime, etc. We emphasise that there is no legal dispute concerning the entitlement of Palestinian workers in the settlements to equal rights according to Israeli labour laws – this is according to the ruling of October 2007 by the Israeli High Court of Justice."

In April 2008, Kav LaOved helped 47 Palestinian workers from the Barkan factory to sue their employer in the Labour Court in Tel Aviv. They were demanding a range of labour rights, including repayment of the difference between their wages and the legal minimum and holiday and sick pay. The plant they work for was established in 2005 and, the workers stated, they have never received their legal rights.

"In addition to these claims and complaints about the violation of labour laws in Israel, the workers complained about serious problems of safety at the factory, such as working with machines without protection, working standing and/or sitting for long hours daily (up to 8 hours straight) without breaks, the lack of suitable ventilation and lighting, working with noise and exposure to a lot of dust. The workers complained of pains in their legs, hands, back and of breathing and hearing difficulties. The workers continue to complain that they do not receive basic conditions at their work such as: a dining room, proper toilets, drinking water and suitable air conditioning.

"Kav LaOved applied to the factory's management on receiving the workers' serious complaints. The factory's management did not react at all. Kav LaOved also forwarded the complaints to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labour in Israel and to the Civil Administration in Beit El, so that the latter would use their authority and see for themselves the employment conditions of the workers in the factory. As yet no visit has been made nor has any response been received from them. The Israeli authorities abandon the Palestinian workers to their employers by not inspecting their working conditions, and especially in the West Bank settlements."

A number of the original 47 workers who took out the legal complaint have been forced to drop their cases because they and their families cannot afford for them not to work. Workers in settlement factories are usually amongst the most marginalised people in Palestinian society, and often include widows or women with sick family members who fall through the gaps in the network of social solidarity which has enabled many Palestinians to survive the effects of the Israeli occupation.

The Royalife factory owners have consistently denied responsibility for the working conditions in the factory, saying that the workers are employed via a Palestinian sub-contractor and that legal action should be directed at him. According to interviews carried out for a report for Manchester-based labour rights NGO Women Working Worldwide in spring 2009, the workers who have continued with the lawsuit have been repeatedly fired in contravention of court injunctions ordering them to be reinstated, and some have also been threatened with physical violence by the local sub-contractor – a known collaborator with the Israeli security services - if they try to find other sources of income.

In June 2009, according to Kav LaOved, "one of the female workers at the plant, Jamila Yassin reached a compromise with the defendants that enabled the payment of differences of minimum wage, vacation days, holiday pay and convalescence pay." The ruling gave a glimmer of hope to the rest of the workers, who are still waiting for the court's decision. In November 2009, there was another discussion in court regarding ten other workers from the factory.

“These workers need a lot of support in order to carry on fighting for their legal rights," Kav LaOved's call for solidarity states. The situation of the workers of the Royalife Company and its partners is just one example of many of how at least 20,000 Palestinian workers employed in the West Bank settlements are being exploited, and who are forced to work there since they have no alternative in the unemployment-riddled areas of the Palestinian Authority.

Take action

Royalife Ltd.

29 Kaufman St.

Tel Aviv 58001

Tel: 972-3-5505001

Fax: +972-3-5165360

E-mail

Send letters of solidarity to the workers at the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions in Salfit and Qalqilia: pgftuq [at] yahoo.com, alza3eem48 [at] gmail.com

More information

A film,"Royal Life", about the company and abuse of workers is available here:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJc3P_k4Osg

For more information about the employment of Palestinian workers in the Barkan industrial zone visit the Kav LaOved website:

www.kavlaoved.org.il/media-view_eng.asp?id=2415

www.kavlaoved.org.il/media-view_eng.asp?id=2326

Salwa Alenat, of Kav LaOved, is speaking at an event, 'Israel’s Occupation of Palestine: who profits and who doesn’t', alongside Dalit Baum, of Who Profits, (www.whoprofits.org/) at the London School of Economics, Thursday, November 19th, 6:30-8pm, Clement House, Room D602.