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Employer turns Palestinian union organizer into a ‘security threat’

Although the claim was first heard at the Labor Court in Jerusalem, the court decided that the issue was critical and needed thorough examination. The employer went to the police,...

Although the claim was first heard at the Labor Court in Jerusalem, the court decided that the issue was critical and needed thorough examination. The employer went to the police, and it took four months until both they and the State Attorney realized that there was no foundation for the indictment, and promptly closed the case. During this time, the army revoked Abu Ziadeh entry permit to the industrial zone (the IDF automatically revokes entry permit to anyone suspected of security-related offenses, even if they were fabricated by the employer). This is how the union leader was removed from the area near the shop.

Time went on. The summaries of the case at the Jerusalem Labor Court were submitted in July 2015. That was seven months ago, and yet we still have no ruling. Ma’an’s attorneys — Aya Bernatein, Amir Basha, and Moran Saborai (full disclosure: Basha and Saborai represent the Journalists’ Union in its continual court proceedings vis-a-vis my illegal dismissal from Ma’ariv) — submitted three requests to hand down a verdict. Every request was met with a response that a ruling would be handed down “soon.” In response to my inquiry, the courts said “the ruling will be handed down soon.”

‘The workers are waiting for me’

Meanwhile, Abu Ziadeh is trying to make a living as a taxi driver in the West Bank, making 40-50 shekels a day, which does not allow him to sustain himself or his family. Beyond the harm caused to him, the delayed ruling harms the workers in the shop. “Every day that the union chairman is not on the job creates a fait accompli that the union can be broken,” says Ma’an head Assaf Adiv.

“If there was a justification for the dismissal — fine. Let the court decide. But delaying the verdict makes it increasingly hard to create a reality where a union can exist, in fact it prevents it. There have been no negotiations since July 2014. The workers are worried that they do not have their chairman, and we are unable to create proper work relations. It is clear that a decision to return the chairman is cardinal here.”

WATCH: Abu Ziadeh organizes workers at Zarfati Garage

“Time goes on and we hear nothing from the court,” says a despairing Abu Ziadeh. “I do not know what to do with the children. I have no way to pay for food or drink, and the court does not understand this. There are also problems at the garage. Workers are calling me with problems about their pay slips, the lack of equipment, taking away vacation or sick days. I am the chairman but I cannot speak with the owners or solve the problems. And yet, I hope to return. I have worked there nearly 20 years and all the workers are waiting for me to come back.”

Reading through the summaries Zarfati submitted to the Jerusalem District Court, it is clear that the employer has no case. The company begins by arguing that because Abu Ziadeh hasn’t worked there for a year and a half and makes a living as a taxi driver, there is no reason to bring him back. As if this was not a result his dismissal and the lack of a court ruling. The employers add that his entry permit to the industrial zone was revoked for several months for security reasons — the same revocation that stemmed from the employer’s complaint, which turned out to be unjustified.

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