Palestine - PGFTU activities to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic (PGFTU)

By Shaher Saad, PGFTU General Secretary

Since the declaration of the state of emergency in Palestine on March 3, 2020, we have set up a crisis cell led by the PGFTU, which is in permanent session. Then, PGFTU crisis cells have been set up in all districts of the country as follows:

- 14 crisis cells in the West Bank
- 5 crisis cells in Gaza

During this period of time,

1. After 10 days of arduous and complicated negotiations with employers on the one hand and with the Ministry of Labor on the other hand, we signed, on March 16, 2020, a collective bargaining agreement with the private sector.

The most important thing in the agreement is provided in paragraph 2, where the private sector is committed to pay the wages of all its 467 thousand workers for the months of March and April, and the arbitrary dismissal as a result of Corona virus is prohibited and criminalised.

Note: We did this because we don’t have social protection system or social security to protect the workers.

2. A crisis cell was set up in 19 districts, whose tasks are to:
- Help workers and solve their problems with the private sector and the Ministry of Labor. Records of what the committees have done are available.
- Participate in the committees set up in each district by the governor, in order to provide modest food grants to a number of workers.
- Help in disinfecting many factories, institutions and governmental bodies, through worksite committees that have been set up.
- Participate in instructing infected or contact workers to undergo examination and transfer them from the Israeli crossings and checkpoints to quarantine at home.
- Continue visiting the workers while crossing from Israel into the Palestinian Territories.
- Distribute leaflets to workers in order to raise their awareness of the coronavirus.
- Target workers through information-related activities, knowing that we have provided disinfecting materials for our participating teams to take part in disinfection.

3. PGFTU has provided financial assistance to provide foodstuffs under the supervision of the governorates and civil society organisations.

4. It was agreed with the Prime Minister to contribute to a fund in order to address the needs of the unemployed workers. PGFTU was mandated to contact international and Arab organisations so as to seek funding for this campaign as deems fit by them.

5. We participate in visiting the workers at the crossings, at dawn, to distribute sanitisers (HiGeen) and awareness leaflets, and to spray the crossing points to disinfect.

6. In the coming weeks, meetings will be held with the Minister of Labor, as representative of the government, to do everything necessary to launch the Fund because of its utmost importance.

7. We contribute to covering some of the expenses of the quarantined and their families, as most of the infected and the quarantined are workers. We also contribute to paying the cleaning and maintenance workers in the places of domestic quarantine.

8. Because of the lack of closure due to the outbreak of coronavirus in Israel, a number of workers inside Israel have been infected. Besides, they suffered heavy losses estimated at more than 336 million shekels, in terms of March wages only (April wages have not been calculated yet). Therefore, we have sent a message in this regard to the ILO’s Director-General Guy Ryder and the ITUC’s General Secretary sister Sharan Burow, as well as to the Chairman of the Histadrut. We consider it to be very important to compensate the Palestinian workers working in Israel. There is a memorandum on this subject, knowing that several deductions from their wages are made by the Israeli government.

9. In a group that includes ILO, WHO, UNDP, Ministry of Labor, Employers and PGFTU, we work hard to educate, guide and exchange information.