Palestinians employed by MS Aluminium Ltd. in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone (West Bank) have joined the Workers Advice Center (WAC-MAAN). The plant employs some 65 workers and 31 have signed up, more than the one-third required by law in order for WAC-MAAN to be considered the representative organization at the plant.
In an official letter from January 15, WAC-MAAN Secretary-General Assaf Adiv informed the plant’s managers about the organizing. He requested that they permit a general assembly for the workers on the plant’s premises and that they begin negotiations towards a collective agreement.
The workers complain that the management arbitrarily fines them for being slightly late, under-reports on their wage slips the hours they have worked, freezes wages, and underpays for transportation costs. Moreover, they say, the company is in arrears for pension contributions. The organizing drive aims to regularize the employment conditions via a collective agreement.
The wages at the plant, including skilled and senior employees who handle sophisticated, cutting-edge machinery, are barely above the minimum. The plant pays as little as it legally can, and only last month did it begin to pay pension contributions, following pressure from the workers after they discovered that this basic right had been denied them for years.
The workers at MS Aluminium in Mishor Adumim join other Palestinian workers in the industrial zone who have already unionized with WAC-MAAN. The Union’s work in Mishor Adumim follows from the 2007 High Court ruling in the so-called Givat-Zeev case, according to which Palestinian workers employed by Israelis in settlements are entitled to all rights that Israeli labor law grants Israeli workers, including the right to unionize and hold collective negotiations with the employer.
On January 19th WAC-MAAN received the first reply from MS Aluminium. A letter from the company’s lawyer, Adv. Yaron Eliran, rejected WAC-MAAN’s status as a representative of the workers. Adv. Eliran added that because the bosses are on a business trip abroad, the union should wait until they send an official response. The letter warned WAC-MAAN not to take any measures with the workers inside the plant, saying that in case such actions are taken the employers will immediately approach the Labor Court to stop it.
WAC-MAAN hopes that the management will realize that it has to act according to the law, allowing the general assembly of the workers and starting negotiations for a collective agreement. In case of a negative response, the union is prepared to use all statutory and union means to enforce the workers’ right to organize.
Translated from the Hebrew by Yonatan Preminger