Zarfati Garage workers in Mishor Adumim organize with WAC

<p>Following the workers at the Salit Quarry and Levi Metal & Wood, a third group of Palestinians employed by Israeli companies in the occupied West Bank is organizing with the Independent Trade Union Centre WAC-MAAN.</p>

Wave of Palestinian workers organizing in West Bank 

Following the workers at the Salit Quarry and Levi Metal & Wood, a third group of Palestinians employed by Israeli companies in the occupied West Bank is organizing with the Independent Trade Union Centre WAC-MAAN (henceforth WAC). On 24 June 2013, WAC staff held a general meeting for workers at the Zarfati Garage, who decided to put an end to years of exploitative employment without social rights.

After the meeting, which was held in Mishor Adumim just east of Jerusalem, WAC attorney Aya Bartenstein sent a letter to the garage owners, informing them that WAC is the representative organization at the garage. The letter requested that WAC be allowed to hold general meetings on the premises in order to elect a workers’ committee, with the aim of entering negotiations towards a collective agreement. Out of 50 garage workers, 39 then joined WAC. This makes WAC the representative organization at the Zarfati Garage.

The firm is a family company which has been operating for more than 20 years, providing garage services for DAF trucks and UMI (General Motors importer) amongst others. Of its 50 workers, most are citizens of the PA, while about 10 are Jewish office workers.

Despite its international links, the garage does not meet legal employment standards. It does not issue proper wage slips or insure its workers with the National Insurance Institute or pension funds. Furthermore, according to “wage slips” received by workers, it appears they receive less than the minimum wage per day (NIS 185), and their daily wage includes transportation costs. No deductions are made for National Insurance or pension funds, and workers do not benefit from social rights such as vacation pay, sick pay, or convalescence pay. They receive NIS 1 per month for work clothes, and have little hope of promotion even though some have worked there for 20 years. Workers also report poor safety standards and say that when one of them broke his hand in a work accident, he was sent home for a month without an income.

On 27 June, after WAC’s initial contact, the employer began pressuring the workers to withdraw from the organization. According to those who initiated the organizing process, the employer singled out workers considered “weak” or young, and met with them personally in an attempt to persuade them to sign a form cancelling their membership with WAC. The employer also gave them false information about WAC and made worthless promises about the benefits they would receive if they left the organization.

Despite these attempts, most of the workers continue their efforts to set up a workers’ committee. They do not believe the promises of their employer who, for 20 years, rejected all their requests for improved employment conditions. Those who initiated the move are adamant to continue the organizing effort, compel the management to recognize both the committee and the union, and begin negotiating towards a collective agreement. The workers are aware that all the employer’s attempts at pressuring them to leave WAC are illegal. On Tuesday July 2nd the workers and WAC will hold a general meeting to elect a workers’ committee in order to pressure the employer to start negotiations for a collective agreement.

It must be noted that just last week the Jerusalem Labor Court ruled that Palestinian workers employed by Israelis in Israeli settlements are entitled to all the benefits their Jewish counterparts receive according to the law. WAC and the workers at the Zarfati Garage are certain that they are able to open negotiations on a legal basis and thus grant the workers fair conditions of employment for the first time in their lives.

– Translated from the Hebrew by Yonatan Preminger


אודות Wac-Maan