Civil Servant Strike Continues in the OPT

Palestinian students leave school due the civil servant strike in the West Bank city of Nablus, 5 September 2006. (MaanImages/Rami Swidan)

PCHR calls upon the Palestinian government to negotiate directly with representatives of civil servants to reach a solution guaranteeing the immediate payment of their salaries and wages. The Centre calls upon all concerned to immediately stop all forms of militancy involvement and interference in governmental institutions either for or against the strike.

Civil servants working in all governmental institutions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including the education and health sectors, started an open general strike on Saturday, 2 September 2006. They are requesting the immediate payment of their salaries, which have not been paid for more than six months, and the regular payment of their salaries in the future. Most ministries and governmental institutions have stopped work, especially the education and health sectors. An estimated 60-90% of the work was halted in these institutions throughout the OPT. Most governmental schools stopped work and refused to admit students at the start of the new school year. Governmental hospitals and health clinics stopped providing services except in emergency cases. In addition, thousands of civil servants protested inside their workplaces, announcing an open general strike.

The strike of civil servants has raised different reactions from its supporters and opposition. The Palestinian government considered the strike illegal, and called upon all civil servants to stop the strike immediately and return to work. The government called upon civil servants to direct their protest against Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) and the parties that are imposing a siege on the Palestinian people. The government hired volunteers to work in place of the striking teachers. On the other hand, the representatives of the striking workers, including the Union of Civil Employees and the Teachers’ Union, considered the strike a legal action for the payment of their salaries for the past six months, and for the regular payment of their salaries in the future.
The past three day of the strike have witnessed violent actions by armed groups opposing the strike and those supporting it throughout the OPT. A number of civil servants, especially those in the education and health sectors, were assaulted by members of security services and armed groups.

PCHR realizes the humanitarian demands of civil servants in the OPT, especially in light of the deterioration of living conditions. The Centre points to the following:

  • The difficult situation of the Palestinian people is the result of the decision by members of the international community to stop international financial aid to the Palestinian people after the democratic elections led to the formation of a new government headed by Hamas. In addition, the deterioration of living conditions in the OPT is the result of the continuous siege and closure imposed by IOF on the OPT, including the withholding of more than 400 million US dollars in Palestinian tax revenue.
  • The Centre considers the right to organize a strike as a right guaranteed by Palestinian law and international human rights standards, especially the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the Conventions of the World Labor Organization and Arab Labor Organization. In addition, this right is guaranteed by article 25 of the Amended Basic Law of the Palestinian National Authority of 2003.
  • PCHR views the absence of an executive statute regulating the organization of strikes and the lack of a labor unions law as an issue that requires urgent action by the legislative authority. The legislature is required to formulate laws that protect and support the right to organize strikes as a form of economic empowerment.
  • The enforcement of a factional nature on the strike takes away the labor nature of the strike demanding privileges for these civil servants. This factionalism will limit the strike to factional interests that could politicize legitimate labor demands.
  • PCHR is very concerned over all forms of violence either those in which civil servants were assaulted to break the strike under the pretext that it is illegal, or those forcing civil servants to observe the strike. These actions are a violation of the rights of civil servants to express their labor demands, a violation of their right to take their own decisions on participating in the strike or not without coercion, and a violation of the right to organize labor strikes.

    PCHR Calls for:

  • The Palestinian government, as the executive authority responsible for civil servants, to quickly find mechanisms that ensure the immediate payment of salaries of civil servants in the OPT, and to ensure the regular payment of salaries in the future;
  • The Palestinian government to stop all accusations against the striking civil servants that they serve external parties; to stop considering the strike as an illegal action; and to stop all calls for the resignation of civil servants;
  • The Palestinian government to negotiate directly with the representatives of civil servants to reach a solution that is acceptable to these civil servants, who are suffering and are unable to meet the basic needs of their families;
  • The Palestinian government to freeze all actions against any striking civil servant, including the directives issued Ministers which threatened to hold the strikers and instigators of the strike accountable;
  • The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) to work quickly to issue a law guaranteeing the right to form labor unions and join them for no purpose but to enhance and protect economic and social rights. The exercise of this right cannot be restricted by any measure except those outlined in the law, and are essential in a democratic society to protect national security, public order, and the rights of others. The proposed law must guarantee the right to organize a strike in accordance with national laws. The Centre calls upon the PLC to draft a law on professional syndicates that guarantees that they work freely without restrictions other than those necessary in a democratic society to protect national security, public order, and the rights of others.

    Related Links

  • Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
  • Cutting Aid to Palestine (30 March 2006)