The May 1st International Workers Day is an occasion to commemorate the struggle of workers’ defence of their rights throughout the world. This occasion comes at a time when the situation for Palestinian workers in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and in particular in Gaza, continues to deteriorate.
Available information indicates that unemployment and the absence of protection from unemployment are the major problems that Palestinian workers suffer from. They have caused several social problems in Palestinian society, notably in the Gaza Strip.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip is approximately 38% and the poverty rate among wage employees in 2010 was 33% in the Gaza Strip.
The actual unemployment rate is higher as statistics reflect those who are of working age and who are seeking work. The statistics exclude those who do not search for work. According to UNRWA, about 80% of refugees in the Gaza Strip receive aid from UNRWA.
The absence of monitoring by the authorities has led to some work turning into almost unpaid labor. Employers usually exploit unemployed persons and give them monthly salaries that are no more than USD 100, despite the increasingly higher living costs.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights reasserts that the situation of Palestinian workers is a natural reflection of the Israeli policy towards them. Israeli policy, which has taken two main forms: a) preventing Palestinian workers, particularly Gazans, from reaching their work in the West Bank and Israel, which started in 2000 and was completed in 2005, and b) the systematic destruction of the Palestinian economy and economic infrastructure through the blockade. This policy has led to the full destruction of productive sectors such as textiles, construction, and tourism. Hundreds of Palestinian factories and businesses have been forced to close their businesses due to their inability to export and/or import.
Al Mezan points out that the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its governments did not take effective measures to eliminate unemployment. They failed to create policies to protect workers from unemployment, which violates the workers' rights, particularly their right to a decent standards of living and dignity, forcing them to search for food aid. The absence of serious monitoring of the wages and the conditions of work has led to more violation of workers' rights; including a high rate of poor employed workers.
Al Mezan also points the responsibility of the international community and the donor community in the difficult situation of the Palestinian workers. The policy of international donors has turned the Gaza Strip, which is basically a political issue, into a purely humanitarian problem; thus ignoring funding development. They continue to pour humanitarian aid while nit taking action to deal with the root causes of the crisis, which requires exerting pressure on Israel to stop its destruction of civilian objects in oPt and to lift its almost four-year-old blockade, which amounts to collective punishment on the population and violates the international humanitarian law.
Al Mezan reiterates its congratulations to the workers on their Day and calls on the international community to take swift action to end the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the violations of human rights and IHL in oPt.
Al Mezan calls on the PA and all Palestinian political powers to double the efforts towards achieving full reconciliation and unity. Al Mezan also calls on the prospected Palestinian government to implement effective policies to protect the right to work and to prevent the prevalence of unemployment. Such policies are essential alleviate poverty and prevent dozens of social problems.
Al Mezan calls on the Palestinian working unions to unite and to accelerate their struggle to achieve their rights towards the full enjoyment of their rights and dignity.