MAAN petitions the Labor Court against a date-packing company that exploits Palestinian workers and refuses to let them organize

The labor union MAAN has demanded that Tamar Tov, a date-packing company, stop threatening its Palestinian workers and start negotiations to secure their rights. The workers of the Israeli company […]

The labor union MAAN has demanded that Tamar Tov, a date-packing company, stop threatening its Palestinian workers and start negotiations to secure their rights. The workers of the Israeli company joined MAAN after a year of earning only NIS 12 per hour – less than half the legal minimum wage—and without pay-slips.

On Tuesday, January 26, MAAN Workers Association filed a petition in the Jerusalem Regional Labour Court in a collective dispute following Tamar Tov’s refusal to recognize the union as the representative of its workers. The 150 employees of the packinghouse make 12 NIS per hour, less than half the minimum wage in Israel, without any social benefits or pay slips. MAAN is demanding that the company open a process of collective bargaining and stop harming its members.

Tamar Tov is in the Jordan Valley of the West Bank north of Jericho. The company, which operates in an Israeli settlement center called “Arvot Yarden,” produces thousands of tons of dates for the domestic market and export. Almost half of Israel’s Majhol dates (regarded by many as the best) are exported worldwide from packinghouses like Tamar Tov in this area. Palestinians tend the palm groves, and they are the ones who package the dates. The produce that comes out of Tamar Tov and other packinghouses in the area requires approval from the “Dikla’im”, a partnership of date producers and exporters in Israel. This extensive and profitable economic activity has been carried out for years without anyone’s raising the question of the wages and job conditions of the Palestinians.  

Now, after years of silence, under extreme conditions of exploitation, the workers have decided to take action. Last December, they joined MAAN to demand their rights. Most are residents of Palestinian villages scattered along Highway 90 in the occupied West Bank. Without choice, since they lacked other sources of livelihood, they agreed until now to accept these semi-slavery conditions.

From the moment the employees joined MAAN in mid-December 2020, their bosses began to pressure them to withdraw from the union and cancel their signatures on the union cards. The management tried to fire employees, including two committee members who were central in the organizing drive, but these attempts failed when the union intervened.

The company is now threatening its workers that anyone who does not cancel membership in the union will not return next season.

After more than a month and a half of delay in its answer to the union, while maintaining the pressures and threats, the company informed MAAN in late January that it refuses to recognize it as the union. It questioned the authenticity of the union cards, indirectly admitting that it was involved in persuading employees to cancel their union membership.

In its petition to the Jerusalem Regional Labour Court, filed by MAAN’s legal team, headed by Adv. Aya Bartenstein, the union demanded an order that would force the company to desist from punitive measures, while obliging it to enter collective negotiations with the union and the workers’ committee.

A session has been scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 2, in which the two sides will meet for the first time. MAAN’s organizer Yoav Gal Tamir who leads the union effort to organize Tamar Tov workers will testify on his meeting with the workers that led them to join. The union will allow Mr. Muhammad Nawati, to speak, as he was one of the workers’ representatives who signed affidavits that were presented to the Court. Mr. Nawati was among the initiators of this unprecedented organizing campaign among farm workers in the Jordan valley. He and his colleagues, women and men, are determined to get their rights, thus showing other Palestinians in the Jordan Valley what can be achieved when you organize.  

אודות Wac-Maan