Using the war in Gaza as a cover – Maaleh Adumim police and Israeli company collaborate to dismiss a Palestinian shop steward

<p>On Thursday, July 31, Maaleh Adumim police revoked the work permit of Hatem Abu Ziadeh, a Palestinian who served as chair of the Workers’ Committee at the Zarfati Garage.</p>

On Thursday, July 31, Maaleh Adumim police revoked the work permit of Hatem Abu Ziadeh, a Palestinian who served as chair of the Workers’ Committee at the Zarfati Garage. Because the Israeli Garage operates in the settlement industrial zone of Mishor Adumim, east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank (Area C), the revoking of the permit amounts to a job dismissal. The police decision was based on fabricated security claims made by the employer.

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The Zarfati garage, which for years employed 50 Palestinian workers in sub-minimum conditions at low salaries, has faced in the last year a unique organizing drive. Workers organized with the independent union WAC-MAAN elected a committee to represent them and forced the employer to sit and talk. However, despite some changes for the better, the bosses acted to scupper the unionizing efforts and avoid a collective agreement. Last week they tried to dismiss Abu Ziadeh but came up against opposition from the rest of the workers, who declared a strike.

It should be noted that Abu Ziadeh has been employed at the garage for 17 years as a professional mechanic, and that the security claims against him were raised for the first time in a court hearing held on July 27, 2014 at the Jerusalem Labor Court. Here WAC-MAAN had submitted a request to declare a collective labor dispute against the management’s attempts to break the strike and dismiss the chairperson. These security claims did not appear at all in the summons Abu Ziadeh had received a week earlier to attend a hearing prior to dismissal. Is it not strange that a quiet and law-abiding worker of so many years’ standing suddenly becomes a “security threat,” precisely at the moment he is elected to chair the Workers’ Committee?

hatem abu ziade smallNow the garage is raising new false claims, making cynical use of the war in Gaza and the fact that Abu Ziadeh is Palestinian. The garage has claimed, for example, that he sabotaged military vehicles being repaired on the premises, that he threatened workers during the strike, and that he even presented himself as an officer in the Palestinian Preventative Security Force. Ziadeh denies these accusations and explains that the garage lodged complaints against him because of his central role in the unionizing efforts.

Contrary to the accusations, the decision to strike was taken by all the workers, who are organized with WAC-MAAN. During a general assembly of workers held on July 22, the union leaders asked the workers to vote on the motion to start a strike immediately. The workers decided unanimously to stand by Abu Ziadeh and continue the unionizing effort.

Although the strike was legal, the garage management did all it could to break it, hiring substitute workers. Moreover, each time a WAC-MAAN representative came to the strike vigil outside the premises, representatives of the Mishor Adumim Industrialists Committee turned up and threatened violence (WAC-MAAN has filmed evidence of this).

Instead of protecting the workers’ right to hold a strike vigil, the Maaleh Adumim police took the side of the employer and answered the call from the industrialists’ committee. Last week, the police arrested two WAC-MAAN staff members, one of them the National Director Assaf Adiv, on the absurd excuse that they had incited the Palestinian workers. They also prevented the workers from standing before the garage entrance during the last two days of the strike.

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