In a decision which will have far-reaching consequences for Palestinian workers, Jerusalem Labour Court President Justice Eyal Avrahami ruled that the dismissal of the Zarfati Garage Workers’ Committee Chairperson was against the law and based on false accusations.
The court ruled that the garage must immediately reinstate Hatem Abu Ziadeh, the Chairperson of the Committee, and ordered a debate within 12 days to determine the monetary compensation the garage must pay him for the long period he was without employment (since July 2014). The Court session, scheduled to March, 2 will also discuss the demand submitted by the Independent Trade Union Centre WAC-MAAN that the garage should compensate it for intentionally undermining its freedom of association. This could entail compensation of up to NIS 200,000.
The judge harshly criticized the employer, who had come up with various reasons for the dismissal in an attempt to hide the real reason, which is Ziadeh’s central role in organizing as head of the Workers’ Committee. “Even after his dismissal Hatem Abu Ziadeh was and remains the cornerstone in organizing the workers at the garage” (Par. 14 of the ruling).
The court also ruled that the employer had tried to “blacken Hatem’s image and undermine his legitimacy” in the eyes of the court (Par. 13), among other things by accusing him of waving Palestinian flags on the garage premises. These accusations had not been proved and moreover raising a PA flag is not illegal wrote the Judge.
Regarding WAC-MAAN, the court said the garage had “thrown up” a number of claims aimed at presenting the union in a negative light. These claims, including casting doubt on the organization’s legitimacy, were rejected by the court for being irrelevant to the case in hand. As the court put it, the claims stem from the garage’s refusal to accept the fact that WAC-MAAN is the representative workers’ organization at the garage (Par. 15).
Abu Ziadeh, the leader of the Palestinian workers who initiated the organizing efforts at Zarfati Garage in 2013, was dismissed in the summer of 2014 after 17 years of employment there. When WAC-MAAN turned to the labour court, the garage submitted a complaint with the police, falsely claiming that Ziadeh had sabotaged a military vehicle being repaired there.
The police closed the case after WAC-MAAN submitted a suit at the High Court of Justice in 2014, and the Labour Court defined it as a false accusation. “Words are not enough to blacken the name of a dedicated employee who had worked at the garage for over 17 years,” the Court said in reference to the intolerable ease with which an Israeli garage can level false security claims against a Palestinian worker.
“I was very surprised,” Ziadeh said about the ruling. “For a year and a half I expected the court to make a just decision, and I welcome the ruling. The court has corrected a great injustice, and I hope the decision will prevent similar injustices against other workers. I thank all those who stood by me, especially the workers, WAC-MAAN, and the attorneys.”
“The court has given its support to Palestinians working in Israeli settlements who want to organize and claim their rights,” said WAC-MAAN’s National Director Assaf Adiv in response to the ruling. “After the garage reinstates Abu Ziadeh, we can turn a new page in our relationship with Zarfati Garage, and renew negotiations towards a collective agreement which will ensure the workers employment security, a rating based on a seniority scale and a professional scale, and also compensation for past debts.”
Photo courtesy of WAC-MAAN
Translated from the Hebrew by Yonatan Preminger