On February 18, Palestinian workers who are organized in the WAC-MAAN trade union put on a two-hour strike as a warning to their company, M. S. Aluminium, which is located in the Israeli settlement MishorAdumim east of Jerusalem. The strike was spurred by the company’s refusal to recognize WAC-MAAN and to open negotiations with it toward a plant-wide collective agreement.
About 20 workers took part, stopping production entirely. They were joined at the factory gate by AssafAdiv, WAC’s National Director, as well as other WAC representatives from the Jerusalem branch, who had joined the workers in planning and publicizing the strike. Among the media covering the event was a team from the Arabic news staff of Israel’s Channel One.
The strike occurred 15 days after WAC’s declaration of a labor dispute. Thus the company had had two weeks in which to open negotiations or else—since it refuses to recognize the union—to petition the labor court for a restraining order against the strike. Yet M. S. Aluminium did nothing except to try and intimidate the workers, summoning them to the office and demanding that they sign forms canceling their membership in the union. This attempt proved fruitless. The strike took place, all work at the plant came to a standstill, and the management decided to halt production entirely, sending everyone home early—in effect recognizing the effectiveness of the walkout.
On the day of the strike, the company’s attorney, Yaron Aliram, claimed on Israeli Radio’s Second Channel that WAC-MAAN is not a trade union but rather an extremist political movement opposing the Occupation and that therefore it has no legal authority to strike against a factory. These claims are meant to hide the fact that M. S. Aluminium and many other Israeli employers in the West Bank settlements have for years exploited Palestinian workers, withholding legal benefits and preventing them from exercising the basic right of all the world’s workers: to organize in the union of their choice.
Background: On January 15, 2015, WAC-MAAN informed M. S. Aluminium that 31 of its workers (out of ca. 65) had joined it, thus legally making it the representing union of the company. The workers joined WAC because the company had refused to deal with their complaints in various areas, among them the imposition of arbitrary fines, reduction of extra hours, lack of professional advancement, lowering of transportation reimbursements, and refusal to compensate them for unpaid past benefits (for example, only in the past month has the company begun to provide pension payments).