A historic collective agreement signed by MAAN in Rajwan Food co. in Atarot industrial zone, Jerusalem

On Sunday, March 7, MAAN-Workers Association, signed a collective agreement with the Rajwan Food Production Company (the company’s official name – RS Food Import and Production Ltd.). The trade union […]

On Sunday, March 7, MAAN-Workers Association, signed a collective agreement with the Rajwan Food Production Company (the company’s official name – RS Food Import and Production Ltd.). The trade union has signed two previous agreements in Area C. This third agreement in a company that emloys mainly Palestinian workers is different as it is the first collective agreement signed a company inside Israel that works under the regualations of the Payment Authoruty.

The agreement increases travel allowances, provides wage increases and higher overtime pay, establishes a digital system of recording hours worked, regulates the handling of work accidents and layoffs, and assigns a role to the workers’ committee in dealing with problems vis-a-vis the company.

The lengthy negotiations extended over a year and included ups and downs, strikes and sanctions. The agreement, valid for five years, resolved the labor dispute and the union committed itelf to avoid announcing a strike action during the period of the agreement.  The two sides agreed that workers would not waive claims they had to the factory’s past debts, and would be entitled to sue them in court.

About 55 production workers at the Rajwan plant are residents of the Palestinian Authority, employed through work permits issued by the Israeli security authorities for six-month periods. Every day they arrive at the Atarot Industrial Area after crossing the Qalandiya checkpoint, sometimes after a long wait. Employees are repeatedly refused entry for various reasons. In February 2020, for example, four employees, including a member of the workers’ committee, received a notice of refusal of entry on the grounds of police intelligence (i.e. the police possess information about their intention to commit an offense without any of them being questioned by the police). MAAN intervened and with the assistance of Attorney Mor Soker from the Legal Aid for Palestinians (LEAP) office, this refusal was quickly removed.

For decades, the Rajwan factory employees, like some 80,000 Palestinian workers employed in Israel, have paid monthly Service Fees to the Histadrut (The General Organization of Workers in Israel), even though the workers were never in contact with the Histadrut and were not given any service for the dues paid.

The agreement now signed by MAAN changes the rules of the game. For the first time, a recognized Trade Union signed an agreement for Palestinian workers employed in Israel. Rajwan employees now have an address to deal with upon any problems that arise in the workplace.

MAAN is proud to be a pioneer in the effort to organize Palestinian workers employed in Israel. These workers play an important role in Israel’s industry, agriculture and construction. There is no reason in the world they should not have adequate trade union representation.

MAAN’s negotiating team included Attorney Aya Bartenstein, MAAN Jerusalem branch coordinator Erez Wagner, and MAAN executive director Assaf Adiv. The team worked in full coordination with the members of the Rajwan Factory workers’ committee: Muhammad Hamuda, Kheiri Abd al-Jabar and Raed Fuqaha. The trust and understanding built within this period between MAAN and the workers’ committee were a key component in the success of the negotiations and conclusion of the agreement.

After signing the agreement, Muhammad Hamuda stated he was “convinced that without the courageous stance of the workers, their determination to obtain their rights, and the loyal support of MAAN, an agreement would not have been reached. We see in this agreement, and in particular the united stance of the workers, an example for factories and other workplaces that show it is possible to conduct a determined and seemingly impossible struggle and achieve results.”

אודות Wac-Maan