The State of Israel owes more than NIS 8.3 billion (including interest) to Palestinian workers from the Occupied Palestinian Territories who worked in Israel. This money was deducted from the Palestinian workers’ salaries for social benefits they did not receive. This is the conclusion of detailed research conducted by the Alternative Information Center (AIC) and Kav LaOved.
“This is theft, pure and simple,” notes Shir Hever, Economic Researcher with the Alternative Information Center and co-author of the research. “92.4% of the deductions taken from workers for National Insurance related social rights, for example, were transferred instead to the coffers of the Israeli Ministry of Finance. Palestinian workers from the OPT did not—and do not—receive the vast majority of social rights for which they are legally mandated to pay.”
Palestinian workers are forced to pay for rights they do not in actuality receive, including for income support, full severance compensation, seniority payments, vacation pay, continuing education, provident fund and holiday payments.
Palestinian workers in the construction sector have further been forced to pay 2% of their salaries to a fund “for the promotion of the construction sector in Israel.” This fund, managed by a non-profit association established specifically for this purpose, is meant to promote the hiring and training of Israeli workers in the construction sector. Palestinian workers are in essence forced to finance the training of workers meant to replace them. In practice, however, the fund—which contains NIS 34 million to date*—*is used to pay for public relations of the Contractors’ Association, grants to the families of Israeli workers and training for Israeli union activists. The height of cynicism in using this Palestinian-financed fund was in its purchase of portable stoves for Israeli soldiers to use during the December 2008-January 2009 Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip.
While most of the “excessive deductions” taken from the Palestinian workers were done so via the Department of Payments of the Ministry of Interior, the Israeli trade union /Histradut/ also took money from Palestinian workers whilst denying them even the possibility of membership in the /Histradut/ and representation in a host of labour-related areas. Although the /Histradut/ claims in a response to the AIC and Kav LaOved that a 2008 agreement it signed with the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) closes all outstanding claims in this areas, in practice the /Histradut/ agreed to transfer less than 20% of the “organizing fees” it has collected from Palestinian workers over the years to the PGFTU.
The AIC and Kav LaOved call on Israel to return the money stolen from Palestinian workers from the OPT to the workers themselves or to their legal beneficiaries. This money should be returned with interest.
The full research, which will be available in late February 2010 in hard copies and on the website of the Alternative Information Center
For additional information and questions:
Shir Hever: firstname.lastname@example.org