Jerusalem Court to hear appeals of 3 Palestinian workers sacked by Zarfati Garage for union activism

<p>The conflict between WAC-MAAN and Zarfati Garage goes to the heart of the union’s right to represent Palestinian workers in Mishor Adumim, and to the heart of the rights of Palestinian workers there to organise.</p>

During a hearing in the Regional Labour Court on Dec. 7, 2014 a “document” was produced, apparently written by a junior armament force officer, demanding that Abu-Ziadeh be removed from the Garage and making it clear that the Army sees the removal of the workers’ leader as a condition for the continuation of having military vehicles repaired by the garage. The document was also presented by Zarfati in Abu-Ziadeh’s pre-dismissal hearing on Jan. 26, 2015 as evidence that he is a security risk, contradicting the fact that the case against him had been closed.

On February 17 Abu Ziadeh’s Attorney Michal Pomerantz managed to get a clarification letter from the IDF’s Department of Public Affairs that made it clear that the officers’ letter had been written in response to a report received from the garage itself, in which it claimed that Abu-Ziadeh was responsible for the inadequate repair of a vehicle. This meant two things: first that the above letter had no security or criminal accusations against Hatem Abu Ziadeh, contrary to the meaning that the Garage tried to give to this letter; secondly, that the information on the alleged damaging of vehicles by Abu Ziadeh came from the Zarfati Garage and not from the Army or any other external source. It should be mentioned that with all the different and contradicting versions of the reason for his dismissal, the Garage never said that his work was inadequate. This demonstrates that the security accusations against Abu-Ziadeh were based solely on the reports of the Garage owners, who are clearly trying to criminalize Abu Ziadeh for his union activity.

Dismissal of the two other workers:

Nidal Rustum, a mechanic with 25 years’ experience who has been working at Zarfati for two years, was said by the garage to have become redundant. In fact, there was no redundancy. Had the need to make cuts been genuine, the garage would have selected a less experienced employee, according to the Last In First Out (LIFO) principle.

Hassan Jelayta, a union member who has worked in the garage for 18 years, suffered a stroke in June 2014 and spent seven months on sick-leave. Recently, he has been declared fit for work by an Israeli occupational health clinic. Despite the fact that he had been sent to the clinic by his employer, he has now been refused permission to return to work, and has effectively been dismissed without due process.

A crucial National Labour Court session about WAC-MAAN’s status:

On April 21, 2015 the National Labour Court is due to hold a crucial session that will deal with the appeal by Zarfati Garage against the right of WAC-MAAN to represent its workers. Moreover Zarfati claims that WAC-MAAN is not a legal workers’ union, but a political organisation opposed to the Occupation, and that therefore it should be banned from union activity in this area and in Israel as a whole.

This challenge to the legal standing of WAC-MAAN has very wide implications. WAC-MAAN  freely admits that it is opposed to the Occupation and supports a political solution to the conflict, based on two independent states. However, as such a solution is far from imminent, WAC-MAAN continues in the meantime to support the struggle of Palestinian workers who are employed by Israelis in the settlements under conditions of extreme exploitation.

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